Fannin County EMA continues to prepare for future demand

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) continues to grow with demand and make updates to systems to keep the residents of Fannin County safe.

The latest updates come after the recent approval by the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to purchase a GPS locating system for 911 calls coming into Fannin County’s E-911 center.

EMA Director Robert Graham was present at the Feb. 27 BOC meeting to provide the commissioners and the public with the latest information regarding his department.

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A new ambulance arrived to Fannin County in 2017. Graham hopes this will help with increased demand.

The main topic of discussion was the progress of the new Fannin County E-911 center and fire station on Windy Ridge Road.

Graham informed the board that the structural completion of this project is about a third of the way through. After recently speaking with the contractor in charge of this undertaking, Graham said that crews are still on time to have the building complete in May or June of this year.

Commission Chairman Stan Helton also pointed out that the contractor was currently staying on budget with the project.

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee questioned Graham as to how soon the new facility would be in use once the contractor’s work is complete.

“There will be a little bit of time to coordinate the moving of the 911 equipment and phones,” Graham said, explaining the difficult nature of the situation, “to make sure we do not put anybody without 911 service.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson then questioned Graham as to what equipment would be moved and what equipment the county would need to purchase for the center.

Graham explained that all the electronic systems would be moved, citing the servers and phone system as examples, but that new furniture would need to be purchased.

Each dispatcher has five display monitors on their desk, and Graham explained that as the dispatcher’s equipment expands, so too does the need for a larger area. The new desks to be purchased would provide just that according to Graham and would allow room for extra equipment in the future.

These new desks are also equipped to be raised so that a dispatcher can stand while working. Dispatchers can work up to 12 hours a shift, and the new desks will allow them the ability to take a break from sitting without leaving their work area.

The new building will also have raised floors. Raised floors were a priority in the original design concept. The purpose of the raised floors is to allow infrastructure of the building to be easily accessible. This would save money in the future if need arises for upgrades or repairs.

New ambulances and fire trucks are also making their way into Fannin County. These new vehicles were approved in 2017.

One of the two ambulances approved in 2017 has already been located to Fannin County, and the other will arrive this month. The Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) received one new fire truck in February and two additional fire trucks are expected to join the FCFD fleet in March of this year.

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One of three new fire engines slated to arrive in Fannin County in 2018.

Fire Station 1, the McCaysville Fire Station, and the Morganton Fire Station will each receive one of the new fire trucks. The trucks that the new engines will be replacing at these stations will be moved to other stations throughout the county.

“The reason we put the three trucks in those stations,” Graham described of the logistics of the new equipment, “those are three of our manned stations and they get quite a bit more use.”

Earl Johnson asked about the progress of finding a new location for the Mineral Bluff Fire Station, to which Graham replied that his department is looking but has yet to find a suitable area.

“The problem is if we don’t stay close to where that station is, it changes ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings for some of the residents and that can affect their insurance considerably,” Graham told of the restrictions of finding a location for a new fire station in that area.

Johnson, understanding of the need to find land near to the existing station, would still like to see progress made in the search. He noted that the Mineral Bluff Fire Station should be next in line to be replaced once Fire Station 1 is complete.

After receiving a Homeland Security Grant in 2017 for the purchase of new equipment for command vehicles, Graham announced the EMA had once again been able to secure another grant.

“We did receive a trauma grant, or trauma equipment grant, for EMS through the Georgia Trauma Commission,” Graham told the board.

This grant will provide $7,500 to upgrade laptops in the county’s ambulances. This money was originally budgeted for the department through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds but will no longer need to be taken from that account.

At the conclusion of the update, Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson asked Graham if his department had any other needs.

Graham replied, “We’re in pretty good shape.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Utility companies work to restore power to Fannin County residents

Community, News
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Crews immediately on the scene after Friday’s snow. Photo courtesy of BRMEMC.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County was not spared the effects of Winter Storm Benji as the storm made its way northeast across the United States. Nationally, this winter storm was noted for record amounts of snowfall in many areas, and estimates have come in that as many as 300,000 homes and businesses lost power nationwide.

Many residents in Fannin County are entering their third day without power due to Winter Storm Benji, and crews with local power companies have been working around the clock to restore power to these citizens.

Fannin County reached the height of power outages on Saturday, Dec. 9. Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) reported between 1,000 to 1,200 members affected. Tri-State EMC has approximately 19,000 meters in their service area. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) services approximately 49,000 meters and reported roughly 14,000 members affected by outages.

Many residents, like Robert Moe, of Blue Ridge, were prepared. Moe stated, “We lost power about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. We put in a back-up generator three years ago. Great decision. Hope to have power back before our propane tank runs out.”

“If we run out of propane, we have kerosene and propane heaters,” Moe discussed of his preparedness. “You have to prepare in advance and not wait until you have problems to try to find answers.”

Lulu Lewis, a Morganton resident, has been without power since approximately 11 a.m. Friday morning. Lewis explained how her household is making it through: ” We have a generator for lights, water, TV, refrigerator and freezer. For heat, we have a wood cooking stove.”

Although the past few days have been difficult without power, some residents have not lost their sense of humor. Ken Burdette, of Blue Ridge, describes losing power twice: “Lost power Friday … came back on around midnight. Heard the power guys holler, ‘Just drag it off.’ Power went off again around 9 a.m. Saturday morning and has been dark ever since.”

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Broken power poles and downed lines as a result of Winter Storm Benji. Photo courtesy of BRMEMC.

Burdette says it’s not all bad, and that he’s “rather enjoying candle light dinners with Vienna sausage and cold red wine.” He does admit though, “The hot tub has lost its appeal.”

David Lewis, IT Manager with Tri-State EMC, spoke of the difficulties in dealing with power outages of this nature: “With these outages, it’s a little different than outages because of wind or tornadoes. It was a lot more sporadic.”

Lewis spoke of the causes saying, “It’s mainly from downed trees, pines.” He explained that snow of this nature is very heavy. The weight of the snow can cause downed lines, but trees breaking under the snow’s weight is the main source for the outages.

He talked of crews working around the clock to restore power: “Not only is there a threat from the downed lines, but you also have to deal with snow and ice in reaching some of these areas, and some of these areas can be pretty remote. It’s a pretty dangerous situation.”

As of 12:20 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11, BRMEMC reported that 2,455 members were currently without power and stated via Facebook, “Crews are still working to restore all power and will not stop until all power is back on.”

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Graham stated that there are no shelters open in Fannin County at this time. A temporary shelter was opened in Union County for residents without power or heat.

With another arctic blast headed our way on Tuesday, Dec. 12, and temperatures expected to dip into the teens, residents are hoping that power can be restored to all of Fannin County before the freezing temperatures hit.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Winter Storm Benji impacts Fannin County

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Snow continues to fall on Fannin County as Winter Storm Benji makes its way out of our region. Residents around the county have reported anywhere from five to eight inches of snow, some reporting more in localized areas.

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Roadways quickly became hazardous early this afternoon. Photo courtesy of Malinda Williams Bakara.

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham says that we are in for more snowfall through the evening hours. Graham stated, “Forecasts are showing an additional one to three inches for our area.”

Power outages have been reported throughout the county today, and crews are working on restoring power to those without. Graham stated of the outages, “Several are out on the eastern side of our county, and up in the Dial area.”

Going into the night power outages and refreezing of roadways are of major concern. The roads cleared some today as temperatures slowly crept above freezing, but without wind or the sun to dry the roadways the water left behind is likely to turn into ice.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff released a statement that he is expecting conditions to worsen as a significant refreeze with black ice will likely occur after dark as temperatures begin to fall into the 20s.

Ratcliff has six trucks dispatched throughout the county putting down salt and gravel mix to treat the roads, and three motor graders have been out working in locations such as Aska Road, Old Hwy. 76, and the Mobile and Madola roads area.

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Five to eight inches of snow are being reported across the county. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Ponton.

EMA Director Robert Graham is now urging residents, “Please stay off the roads tonight, unless you absolutely need to get out. Try to stay put in the morning as well. After about 10 or 11 a.m. tomorrow, we hope the temperatures will get back up and melt some of this off.”

Fannin County Fire and Rescue Chief and EMA Deputy Director Larry Thomas spoke with FetchYourNews about area roadways and conditions. Thomas confirmed that his department has already responded to several calls today. Many of these calls involved stranded motorists and residents.

While some could not avoid getting out today, many citizens chose to prepare and stay indoors. Fannin County resident Glenda Higdon spoke of her preparation, “So far so good here. We are gathering water, charging phones and phone banks, brought in another load of wood and cooking food up. We have a wood heater, heat pumps and a generator.”

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Glenda Higdons shared this photo of snowfall on her property.

Higdon added with a smile, “We also have a bobcat, tractor, battery chargers, as well! My hubby is a Vietnam Veteran and is not about to get stuck anywhere!”

“We’re both locals so when the blizzard came in 1993, (we) learned a lot about being prepared then (the hard way),” Higdon explained.

Whether prepared or not Winter Storm Benji has left its mark on the north Georgia mountains, and its effects will continue to be experienced in our area for the next couple of days.

Follow FetchYourNews for the latest information about Winter Storm Benji in our area.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Weather conditions worsen in Fannin County

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News
Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Mineral Bluff, Morgaton, McCaysville, Georgia, Winter Storm, Winter Weather, Snow, Fannin County Emergency Management Agency, EMA, Robert Graham, Lakewood Hwy, GA 60, GA 515

Five to seven inches of snow have been reported county wide.

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Conditions worsened quickly as Winter Storm Benji moved into the area this morning. With initial weather forecasts varying on the predicted amount of snowfall, many residents have expressed that they were not expecting the weather Fannin County is currently experiencing.

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham confirmed of the roadways, “They’ve really deteriorated. A lot of the side roads are really, really hazardous. Aska, up that way, is really bad.”

The Fannin County EMA sent out an alert at 12:16 p.m. warning travelers:

“Lakewood Hwy (GA 60) between Mineral Bluff and GA 515 is closed due to accidents and stranded motorists.

Lakewood Hwy (GA 60) between Mineral Bluff and GA 515 is temporarily closed due to accidents and stranded motorists. This section of roadway is impassible due to snow and ice.”

Graham stated that so far the eastern side of the county is experiencing more hazardous conditions than the western side, but added that these conditions could change at any time. Graham reiterated, “I recommend staying in unless you have to get out.”

Reports are starting to come in of power outages in Fannin County due to the weather, and Fannin County EMA has also received a report of a tree down on Mobile Road.

Be sure to follow FetchYourNews for the latest updates on this winter storm.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County under Winter Storm Warning

Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County residents woke up to the first snow of the season. The county along with surrounding counties in north Georgia was issued a Winter Storm Warning by the National Weather Service in the early afternoon of Dec. 7.

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Snow falls in downtown Blue Ridge early Friday morning.

This warning warning called for up to one inch of snow and was effective through Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7 a.m. Forecast models varied greatly on this winter weather, some calling for only a half-inch on grassy surfaces and others stating to expect up to five inches of snow.

Fannin County School Systems canceled school on Friday, and the Fannin County Courthouse will close early at noon.

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Robert Graham spoke with FetchYourNews on current road conditions and what to expect overnight.

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Snow continues to fall downtown.

As of 10 a.m., Graham reported that most roads in our county were still in good condition and no major problems had been reported to his team. “We are starting to experience the roads becoming covered and there are patchy areas. Aska, out toward Dial, and Hwy. 60 as you go out to Suches has some tricky areas,” Graham said, speaking of current road conditions.

“I would recommend not getting out unless you have to,” the EMA Director answered when asked about the safety of the roads through the afternoon.

With temperatures expected to drop well below freezing tonight, Graham cautioned about roadways freezing overnight and into early tomorrow morning. “If you need supplies, the earlier you can get them, the better. We could see more snow, and with all this precipitation, we could see some black ice,” Graham stated.

Graham recommended avoiding travel tonight as there is still uncertainty about what this winter storm could bring.

Fannin County remains under a Winter Storm Warning until 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.

Fannin County EMA latest weather update via Nixle:

Winter Storm Warning until 07:00AM Saturday

…WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM FRIDAY TO 7 AM EST SATURDAY…

* WHAT…Periods of snow expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions, including during the morning commute on Friday. Total snow accumulations of one to two inches are expected with higher elevations above 1500 feet potentially receiving up to three inches.

* WHERE…Generally north and east of a line from Ellijay to Dawsonville to Dahlonega to Cleveland in northeast Georgia.

* WHEN…From 5 AM Friday to 7 AM EST Saturday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Slick and dangerous road conditions are possible, especially in higher elevations and on elevated bridges and overpasses.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency. The latest road conditions for the state you are calling from can be obtained by calling 5 1 1.

* AFFECTED AREAS: DAWSON … FANNIN … GILMER … LUMPKIN … TOWNS … UNION … WHITE

Follow FetchYourNews.com for the latest updates on this winter weather system.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County Schools recognized for their farm-to-school program

Community, Education

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County School System was recognized for outstanding achievement in its farm-to-school program.

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The Board of Education receives Golden Radish Award on behalf of all schools in our district.

Over 40 percent of school districts in Georgia participate in this program. Combined, these districts served more than 97 million school meals with local food items during the 2016-17 school year.

Georgia Organics founded the state’s first farm-to-school program in 2007. “It’s astounding that over 40 percent of our school districts are actively involved in The Golden Radish Awards after only four years of establishing the program,” Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls stated.

The farm-to-school program gives students an opportunity to learn the basics of gardening and helps support local economies through local food purchases for school meals.

Fannin County School Nutrition Director Candice Sisson was present to present the Board of Education with the Golden Radish Award received for our district.

The Fannin County School System was recognized at the Gold Level for their accomplishments during the 2016-17 school year. Some of the areas for which Fannin County was recognized include:

– Students incubated, hatched, raised chickens and harvested their eggs. The eggs are just one of the many locally produced items featured in taste tests;

-Every school in Fannin County has a school garden and two elementary schools have greenhouses; and

-Twenty farm-to-school standard-based lessons were taught throughout the school year, including Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) lessons on plant growth in the school garden.

Discussion among board members began about this type of curriculum having not always been taught in schools, except in specific agricultural classes or clubs.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney pointed out, “It was something that the children came to school knowing this. The way we (society) has changed through the years, it’s wonderful that school can respond to that need, and school can now provide these experiences for them to in turn take back home.”

Board Member Terry Bramlett agreed and added, “Not only does it increase their knowledge and appreciation of where food comes from, but agriculture remains the number one industry in the state of Georgia.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Dr. Gwatney Shares His Views About School Tax Exemption

Education, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney presented his stance concerning school tax exemption for seniors in Fannin County.

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Dr. Gwatney presents his concerns about upcoming Town Hall discussion.

An upcoming Town Hall is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. This meeting will take place in the Jury Assembly Room of the Fannin County Courthouse.

State Representative David Ralston and State Senator Steve Gooch will be present to hear arguments from both sides.

If representatives decide to move forward, the possible Senior Homestead Exemption would have to be approved by the 2018 session of the Georgia General Assembly and then would be decided by Fannin County voters in the 2018 general election.

Dr. Gwatney addressed the board and residents present at the November 9 Board of Education meeting.

Gwatney cited statistics for Fannin County and for the Fannin County School System. According to these statistics, just under 30 percent of residents in Fannin County could benefit from this possible Homestead Exemption.

This large portion of the population, if passed, could account for schools in Fannin County losing up to $1.4 million annually.

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Board of Education members listen to Dr. Gwatney’s presentation.

Gwatney pointed out that, “The only generation that will benefit from the exemption is the one that will be exempt now; all other generations will pay more taxes.”

A similar exemption passed in Gilmer County. Dr. Gwatney showed that after the exemption was passed, it had a negative effect on the area. The millage rate increased to account for the loss, putting a heavier burden on those not exempt from the tax.

Gwatney also cited that Gilmer experienced furloughs and a closing of a school. He stated that the citizens of Gilmer County “paid more for less.”

According to the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the current average millage rate for schools in Georgia is 16.36. Fannin County’s school millage rate sits at 11.23.

Gwatney stated, “This board has shown consistent, conservative leadership in respect with people’s money.”

He showed that while Fannin County has a lower millage rate than the average for the state, Fannin County still is able to spend more per student than the average amount spent statewide.

Dr Gwatney concluded, “My opportunities here were possible due to the effort of the previous generation.”

He added that this is “my opportunity to stand up for our next generation of Fannin County.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Teaching as a Profession Pathway at FCHS

Fannin County High, Rebel's Corner

The Teaching as a Profession pathway (TAP) prepares students for a career in education. Students enrolled in these courses don’t just learn about teaching from sitting in their classroom at Fannin County High School; they see first-hand what it’s like to teach young children by working with mentor teachers in various grade levels across the county.

Jill Dyer, TAP Program Coordinator, says, “Research shows that there will be a significant shortage of teachers in the next few years. There are many more teachers who will be retiring than there are students who will complete college degree programs in education. We are growing our own teachers here in Fannin County by offering these students an opportunity to see what a great career it can be.”
Students in the first course of the pathway, Examining the Teaching Profession, recently volunteered their time at Fannin Head Start in Mineral Bluff and the TAP students aren’t the only ones that benefit from these visits. Mary Beth Deal, Curriculum Director of Fannin Head Start said, “Our preschool students get so excited when the high school kids visit because they look up to them as role models. The biggest evidence of their excitement is the smiles on their faces.”

The TAP program consists of three courses that include FCHS classroom instruction and mentoring with teachers who work with ages PreK – 8th grade. In the 2 nd and 3 rd level courses, students work with a mentor teacher several days a week. By the time they finish the pathway, they are actually teaching real lessons that they have written and developed on their own.

Senior Victoria Keaton recently taught a class of 2 nd graders at East Fannin Elementary. “Having the
opportunity to work with these precious children has encouraged me even more to become a teacher and make a difference in the generation of tomorrow,” said Victoria.

Her mentor teacher, Lauren Seber said, “From the time I had Victoria in 2nd grade, I knew she was born to teach. I believe that good teachers are born and not made. Over the years I have watched her as a student and her poise, personal dedication, and determination prevails. She was born to make a difference, and it takes a special person to have the strength and compassion needed to nurture each and every student that walks through the door. Victoria will change the world and positively affect the lives of young children. When Victoria says, ‘I love kids’, she really means it!”
By completing the courses and passing the state-wide assessment, students earn college credit. The classes are open to all high school students in grades 9-12.

 

Emily Ingle (high school student) with Bailey, Rylee and Hera (preschool students)

 

Junior, Dylan Walton takes time with Copper at
Fannin Head Start in Mineral Bluff, Georgia.

 

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