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Jordan Vocational High School: Nurturing a Legacy, Shaping the Future of Education and Workforce Development

Feb 06, 2024 08:55AM ● By Desi Phillips

Coming down Howard Avenue in Columbus, Georgia—a quiet street in a quiet part of town—one may at first be surprised to see the art deco monolith that is Jordan High School standing as a proud sentry amidst a quaint and conventional neighborhood.  The school’s location and overall design harken back to a bygone era when public education was vastly different than it is today.  Yet, despite its historic exterior and grounds, the students inside of the building are embarking on a scholastic journey utilizing the latest in modern equipment and technology. 

Within its walls, Jordan’s students are working with state-of-the-art simulators, fabrication equipment, and computers.  The brick-and-mortar exterior along with its newly renovated interior facilities creates a perfect marriage of Jordan’s deeply-rooted history and its bright future.

Jordan has the unique distinction of being the very first vocational/technical high school in America.  Founded in Columbus in 1906 as Secondary Industrial School, the name Jordan Vocational High School was bestowed when the school moved to its current location on Howard Avenue in the late 1930s.  The grounds itself was donated by the family of G. Gumby Jordan, former School Board Chairman, industrialist, and the educational champion responsible for the school’s inception.

Since it first opened its doors, Jordan has been the alma mater for countless Columbus-area businesspeople, political and civic leaders, championship sports teams, and even familial legacies that have spanned generations.   Anywhere you go, its alumni will express their pride in being a Red Jacket and will gladly boast of their time and ties to the school and community-at-large.

It’s upon this enduring legacy that Jordan is now forging ahead with a new phase of progressive education. 

In 2019, Jordan Vocational High School became a designated College and Career Academy.  As the only institution of its kind in Muscogee County, this designation has breathed new life into its academic and vocational (now known as CTAE—Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) programs. 

College and Career Academies (CCAs) are a unique educational mechanism spelled out by the Georgia Legislature over a decade ago.  There are currently more than 50 CCAs across the state of Georgia, with additional Academies being added each year.  These Academies are an innovative relationship that binds together the work of the local School Board, business community, and post-secondary institutions (read: Columbus State University and Columbus Technical College).

The purpose of a CCA is to streamline and bolster local workforce development efforts through public education.  CCAs are given flexibility in their overall design and implementation, with the intent being to more rapidly and thoroughly introduce students to the workplace through a heightened emphasis on CTAE and greater involvement in Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Dual Enrollment (DE).

At Jordan in Fall of 2023, nearly forty (40) students were engaged in its Work-Based Learning activities at more than thirty (30) local businesses.  These businesses range from locally-owned restaurants and construction contractors to doctor’s offices and grocery stores.  These students generated nearly $140,000 in one semester through their WBL efforts and are on-track to not only graduate, but to become vital members of the local workforce.

These students include such stand-outs at Haven Walter, a senior at Jordan.  Mr. Walter works part-time at Uptown Pediatrics as he prepares to finish his final year then enroll at Mercer University and eventually become a pediatrician.   This is in addition to his numerous duties at President of Jordan’s Journalism Club, involvement with its robotics team, and his regular schedule of volunteering throughout the community.

Other examples of Jordan’s success include students such as Jo’Haylee Davis, also a senior.  Ms. Davis recently took on a role working with C.W. Matthews Contracting Company, a prominent Georgia-based grading and transportation contractor.  When she’s not studying or participating in school athletics, Ms. Davis can be found on the C.W. Matthews job site operating heavy equipment and helping to build Columbus’ infrastructure.

It is students such as these—and thousands of others—who have helped write Jordan’s history and who are paving the way for its future.  Each day, their lives and achievements are penning a new chapter in that history as Jordan continues to produce the skilled young people the community needs to continue its upward trajectory. 

Where that trajectory may go as our local economy evolves and grows is anyone’s guess.  However, with nearly 120 years of success in building the skilled workers of tomorrow, it is safe to say Jordan is well-suited to lead the way in training the best and brightest our community has to offer.