Grantee Corner  |  Waco Independent School District



Students in welding masks watch someone weld.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy students observe advanced welding techniques during a field excursion to a business partner site.

Three male students at a desk write notes next to a scale and balance.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy students receive help from a teacher on logging weights and measurements as part of their Principles of Technology course, a science class, as part of their academy of welding sequence of courses.

Three male students hold parts of a bridge made of dried spaghetti.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy students build spaghetti bridges as an introductory lesson in Analytical Integrated Mathematics, their senior-level mathematics course as part of the academy of welding sequence of courses.

A group of students in team t-shirts stand next to their project at the competition.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy students participate in the Heart of Texas BEST Robotics Competition, winning 1st place in robotics, 3rd place BEST overall, 2nd place in engineering notebook, and top-scoring awards after only 8 weeks of s

A group of students surround two teachers seated at a desk with a computer.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy students work with members of the Wallace Group on a marketing plan for the Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics Competition.

A group of adults stands behind a large ribbon stating GWAMA while one man prepares to cut the ribbon.
Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy staff and business advisors attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the school and the welding/manufacturing laboratory.

Headshot of Marcus Lamar Walker
Marcus Lamar Walker, WISD Project Director

The Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy, located in the Waco Independent School District, is an interdistrict magnet school. The Manufacturing Academy serves students from 39 surrounding school districts and the list is continually growing. Students who are currently enrolled in a public school in Central Texas may attend at no cost to them. The student’s home school district pays the cost of tuition, textbooks, and transportation.

With the support of Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) funds, the school opened its doors in fall 2013 as a specialized program for students in 11th and 12th grades who desire an alternative to traditional education. This school is a unique partnership between industry and education, and it offers students hands-on training in welding, metal manufacturing, electronics, and robotics. Much more than a trade school, the Manufacturing Academy offers specialized courses that are mandatory to succeed in today’s high-tech industrial jobs. Students graduate with a high school diploma plus industry certifications and college credit. Upon graduation, students have the choice of going directly into the workforce with guaranteed employment or entering a 2-year or 4-year college program. The school is located in a newly renovated building that has been retrofitted with specialized classrooms and state-of-the-art welding stations.

Because students attend the Manufacturing Academy for only a half-day during their junior and senior years, they can continue to take advantage of the programs and activities offered by their home schools and districts. The program is designed for students with interests and skills in working with tools and their hands, assembling things by following instructions, working in groups to reach common goals, taking leadership roles, and using scientific principles to solve problems. The school’s highly trained instructors are knowledgeable in the fields of welding, precision metal manufacturing, and electronics and robotics.

The Manufacturing Academy serves as a bridge between high schools and local businesses in the industrial sector. The school is industry driven, with local businesses serving in an advisory capacity to provide valuable insight on curriculum and offer the students guaranteed employment upon graduation. These partnerships provide students with mentorships and summer internship opportunities that give them valuable on-the-job experience prior to entering the workforce. To further prepare students for work, and to equip them with a sense of business etiquette, the school’s code of conduct is modeled after the expectations of employees in the real world.

Marcus Walker, MSAP Project Director and Principal of the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy, has been in education for 6 years. He has also served Waco Independent School District as a social studies teacher, a business teacher, a career counselor, and the Coordinator of Career and Technical Education. He has experience as a student and teacher of a similar career academy magnet program, after which the Advanced Manufacturing Academy is modeled. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and two master’s degrees in Education Administration and School Counseling from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He will complete a doctorate in Education in fall 2015 from Lamar University.

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