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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Student Reanna Garnsey Finds a Future in Green Technology

Kathy Baron
Former Edutopia reporter and editor, mother of two.


Laguna Creek student Reanna Garnsey credits teacher Eric Johnson, and GETA, with making school worth waking up for.

Credit: Ethan Pines

Name: Reanna Garnsey
School: Laguna Creek High School
Location: Elk Grove Unified School District
CTE: Green Energy Technology Academy (GETA)
Year: Class of 2011

Ninth grade was a bad year for Reanna Garnsey, as it is for many students. Several studies (download) have found that more high school students fail ninth grade than any other grade; in low-income high schools, 40 percent of all dropouts (download) leave after ninth grade.

Reanna’s family life was in such turmoil during her freshman year that she tears up just thinking about it. She cut school a lot, missing half the year. Her GPA was just 0.8 out of a possible 4.0.

When she heard that teacher Eric Johnson was starting a Green Energy Technology Academy (GETA) at Laguna Creek High, she was curious. "I signed up and fell in love with it," says Reanna. She still cut classes, just not as many. "I'd wake up around noon and then go to Mr. Johnson's class." Eventually, she says, "I started going to my third and fourth period classes, working my way up to first period."

She learned how to build wind turbines and solar-powered go-karts, and she made biofuel out of algae. She raised her GPA to a perfect 4.0. In April 2009, California State Senator Darrell Steinberg asked Reanna to testify before a senate committee on behalf of a bill that would fund more career academies like GETA that prepare students for green jobs. "I gave a speech about my life and my story, and every time I told them about my GPA, the audience gasped," recounts Reanna with a laugh.

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Anthony Armstrong's picture
Anthony Armstrong
8th grade U.S. History, 7th grade World History

This story really makes me think about the number of other students whose talent and motivation for learning becomes lost in our traditional school system. One size doesn't fit all in education.

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