Kevin Dukes Career & Innovation Academy Helps Students Excel
The Kevin Dukes Career and Innovation Academy — located at the heart of the Hollywood community in the Jackson County Industrial Park — is so much more than just a school. It’s more than a building, the technology, and the staff. It represents one man’s dream for Jackson County students.
Kevin Dukes was a well-known Jackson County educator who was elected as Jackson County Superintendent in 2016 and 2020. While his death in June 2022 affected the community deeply, his legacy lives on through the lives of his students and those impacted by the KDCIA.
KDCIA is a 30-acre campus offering technology, fine arts, and STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — programs to high school sophomores through seniors in the Jackson County School District.
Dukes, a lifelong resident of Jackson County, grew up in Macedonia. His career as an English and physical education teacher and football coach brought him back to his old stomping grounds. He taught at Macedonia Elementary School for several years before moving on to teach at North Sand Mountain High School. He later served as assistant principal at North Jackson High School and then as principal at Skyline High School before becoming superintendent.
“He had a true passion for making this community better,” current Jackson County Superintendent Jason Davidson says.
Throughout his storied career in education, Dukes was committed to preparing students for life after school. “He knew our area was lacking in resources for tech skills and workforce readiness,” Davidson says. With Jackson County being located near major cities, preparing students for jobs so they could make a living close to home was a goal for Dukes.
“He realized there are jobs here and it’s a great place to live and work,” Davidson says. “He wanted the kids to have the option to stay here and make a life for themselves.”
Davidson, who has also spent his career in Jackson County, once served as the Career Tech Education director at the Ernest Pruett Center of Technology, where students prepared for careers prior to the opening of the KDCIA.
During his time at EPCOT, Davidson made connections with students and witnessed firsthand how some truly thrive in a tech school environment. “Seeing those students succeed and be recruited by industries is huge,” he says.
In fact, 1 of those students who is currently thriving at KDCIA is Davidson’s daughter, Brilyn, a senior at North Sand Mountain High School.
“She first came here to utilize the health care labs and take career tech classes. She’s decided she wants to pursue health science as a career instead of deciding during college. This experience gives kids the opportunity to be successful,” he says.
On a daily basis, between 500-600 students are on the KDCIA campus. In addition to the other benefits of attending the academy, many of the programs offer dual-enrollment credit through local community colleges.
“Students have access to technology that no other school in the state or country does. It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” Davidson says.
KDCIA also houses the Jackson County School District Central Office and has available meeting spaces for businesses, industry, and professional development training for educators. There is also a theater with seating for 750 people.
A Dream Come True
Even though Dukes died before the academy was completed, he was able to see part of the construction process. The academy opened in October 2023.
“To have the grand opening without him was a bittersweet moment because it was everything he wanted it to be,” Davidson says.
When people enter the expansive lobby at KDCIA, they’re greeted with a legacy video that plays on a loop. “There’s no better way to describe the vision he had for this project,” Davidson says.
“It all started in a meeting with supervisors discussing workforce development, career technical education, and removing the stigma to provide opportunities for our kids to stay here, close to home,” Dukes explains in the video. “We wanted to know what we could do for our students, to make a difference.”