Fairview High School was buzzing with excitement last Friday morning as Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and a host of other dignitaries visited the campus to tour the state-of-the-art mechatronics program and congratulate a special group of students.
Those students, who have been enrolled in the mechatronics program since eighth grade, were one day away from accepting a college degree and one week from receiving their high school diploma.
Fairview High is currently the only Williamson County Schools’ campus to offer mechatronics which is the study of mechanical, electrical, computer and robotics engineering. Students in the program have the unique opportunity to complete college-level courses and lab work to obtain their associate degree in engineering technology from Columbia State Community College while also earning their high school diploma.
FHS Principal Dr. Kurt Jones introduced the 18 senior students in the mechatronics program who earned their associate degree along with four students earning technical certificates.
Speaking to the students, Gov. Lee said, “You should be commended for pursuing this path. It is a certain pathway that is so needed in our communities and in our workforce and in our state. We’re very proud of you.”
Gov. Lee noted, “We need students like you…While we haven’t had this kind of education for a long time in our state…your school is a leader. This program and what you are a part of is providing metrics and data that is going to inform the way we do schools all across this state.”
Williamson County Schools, partnering with Columbia State, launched the mechatronics pilot program in 2016 with funding from then Governor Bill Haslam. The award-winning program has continued to receive funding each year with four other high schools across the state starting similar programs.
State Representative Sam Whitson was in attendance. He has been a strong supporter of the program, working with the State to maintain and increase funding to keep the program running. The funding is needed for student fees and the necessary courses at Columbia State.
“It’s important that we continue this, and it really aligns with Governor Lee’s initiative,” stated Rep. Whitson.
He was referencing Gov. Lee’s GIVE program, Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, which promotes learning opportunities at the high school level for vocational skills such as engineering. The GIVE program has provided additional funding for the mechatronics program, and school administrators hope the success of the program at Fairview High will secure future funding.
Gov. Lee addressed the students, “You are the embodiment of something that needs to be happening all over the county and all over the state…To know that this kind of program is happening in my hometown and a program that is so near and dear to my heart is exciting.”
It was also noted that less than one percent of the state’s high school students have accomplished earning their high school diploma and a college degree at the same time.
The Fairview High mechatronic students were given an opportunity to demonstrate their engineering projects to Gov. Lee, who also toured the mechatronics lab.
Gov. Lee noted, “The people in the public school system in this county, in this district and in this state are focused on what’s best for our kids. We are always trying to find ways to make you successful, and I think this is a perfect example of it.”
The following day, May 8 at Columbia State’s main campus in Columbia, Fairview High’s senior mechatronics students walked across an outdoor stage for their commencement ceremony to accept their college degrees as parents and supporters drove by in vehicles to capture the moment.