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Q&A with Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy Principal Alison Belliveau

Rockwall ISD and Texas Tech University formalized a partnership at a public signing ceremony at the Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy on May 23, 2018. This unique partnership gives Texas Tech the ability to host face-to-face and online classes at the Academy.

(ROCKWALL, TX — June 1, 2018) This coming fall, Rockwall ISD will open the doors to its Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy – a 154,944 square-foot facility providing students from Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath high schools the opportunity to explore career options and professional certifications. Housing a maximum capacity of 1,100 students, the Academy will share space with Rockwall ISD and Collin College to grant students access to career/technical certifications and two-year degrees. Rockwall ISD also recently announced a partnership between the Academy and Texas Tech University, so students can receive a high-quality degree from a Tier 1 school without having to relocate from Rockwall.

In the fall last year, Rockwall ISD named Alison Belliveau as its executive director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and principal of the Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy. Belliveau has 17 years of public education experience, including six years as coordinator for CTE, four years as director for CTE in Temple ISD, and seven years as a business educator in Killeen ISD, where she leads all CTE curriculum and instructional development. She earned a Master of Education in Educational Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Tarleton State University. She is married to husband Owen, and they have two children – Haley, a sophomore in high school and Mason, a sixth grader.

Blue Ribbon News had a chance to catch up with Belliveau to get her thoughts on the new Academy and her role at its helm when it opens in the fall.

A rendering of the entrance to the College and Career Academy

What does it mean to you to join Rockwall ISD as the executive director for career and technical education/principal of the College and Career Academy?

I am extremely honored on humbled to serve RISD as the CTE Executive Director & GBCCA Principal. I am excited about the opportunities this will provide students and looking forward to working along side some really amazing instructors.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as principal of the College and Career Academy?

I love seeing the lightbulb go off as students put their knowledge into practice. I’m also very proud of all the accomplishments students/staff have had through their student competitions and look forward to even more talented winners.

What opportunities will the Academy provide students in terms of preparing for life after high school?

The Academy will provide equipment that currently is not in place in RISD for students to gain hands-on experience in their field. It will also provide students the opportunity to collaborate on cross-curricular projects since programs will be under one roof.

Rendering of the College and Career Academy Amphitheater

A rendering of the student union area inside the College and Career Academy

How would you describe the type of learning environment students can expect at the Academy?

Typically CTE buildings like this one provide a more mature environment with students from 9-12 grades in the same classes and more of a project-based learning similar to a collegiate environment.

The Rockwall ISD Board of Trustees approved a partnership between Texas Tech and the College and Career Academy. What opportunities will this partnership provide for students of the Academy?

This unique partnership could provide many opportunities such as mentoring. It will also provide students with a college education without ever leaving Rockwall.

The College and Career Academy will also share space between Rockwall ISD and Collin College. Could you tell us more about that?

During the day, Collin will provide dual credit for students on the college side on the second floor. On the first floor, Collin will provide tradition college courses and there is a security vestibule separating the two floors. In the evening, Collin will have access to both floors, which is a shared spaced between Collin and Texas Tech for both day and night classes.

You recently had an opportunity to tour the facility with the Rockwall ISD Board. What are your thoughts on the layout of the building? What features of the facility most impress you?

I have toured the facility many times in the past seven months and am impressed with the design and progress. It’s exciting to see the differences each time I visit. I am extremely impressed with The Crave Café as well as the STEM areas – really the entire building excites me.

The Academy is an example of an approach to planning and design that is in direct response to the needs of the school district, the local workforce, and college partners. How do you think the Academy will help fill those needs?

This is a vital role that the Academy will play. We plan to work with local businesses to evaluate our programs and ensure we are teaching students relevant information while still meeting the state standards. We already have many partners with local businesses for student internships such as our Health Science clinical courses. The plan is to expand those partnerships as we expand and add programs. We also plan to continue to develop and offer more dual credit courses for students. All of these partnerships will be possible through the revitalization of the RBEC committee.

Overall, how do you hope the Academy will impact today’s generation of students and those to come?

Overall, I believe the Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy provides opportunities for students that you cannot accomplish within a traditional classroom and without industry partnerships. It gives students real-life educational opportunities while preparing them for post-secondary/life-long learning. CTE courses and the student competitions that are involved with these programs also grow leaders.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photo and renderings courtesy of Rockwall ISD.

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