Program brings students and companies together to solve real problems

Home design and human resources aren’t typical high school courses. However, Tanvi Singhal, a 10th grader at Northview High in Johns Creek, is already learning about them through 3DE by Junior Achievement. The program gives students a way to discover new topics and reevaluate career choices based on the work connections they’re making.

“This program opened my eyes,” she said. “I really liked the marketing aspect in general, but human resources was a new thing I found out about. The program has opened up my horizons and options for any career, and I plan to stick with it.”

Junior Achievement has long been known as a youth organization that focuses on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and workplace readiness. The 3DE program kicks that focus up a notch, said John Hancock, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Georgia.

“We offer a different academic model through a school-within-a-school,” said Hancock. “It’s a model to re-engineer the student experience: It’s not an add-on; it’s full-on experience based on a monthly case challenge.”

Case methodology permeates every course, he explained. “Teachers in all subject areas teach their subject matter through the lens of the case challenge. For instance, in November, sophomores might get a real-life challenge such as, ‘How does this company attract the Millennial population?’”

Since its inception five years ago, students have worked on challenges from companies such as Delta, SunTrust and Chick-fil-A.

A recent project with Sysco had students puzzling over ways to integrate and get customers to adopt new video conferencing technology. At the end of the month, the students visit the company’s site and present their proposals.

“We do that over and over each month,” said Hancock. “That approach makes 3DE more of an academy than an elective.”

The idea launched five years ago at Banneker High in south Fulton County and has since grown to 10 schools in the metro area and one in Savannah. The first seniors to participate graduated in May, providing statistical evidence of the program’s success.

“The results were off the charts in terms of performance on testing, GPA’s and student engagement,” said Hancock. “The most impressive measure came from a school that historically graduated students in ballpark of 60%; we brought that up to roughly 95%.”

Hancock credits the success to the program’s ability to grab and hold onto students’ attention.

“The number one reason kids drop out of high school is because they’re not seeing relevance in their experience,” said Hancock. “At the same time, this model also serves as an alternative for students who have may be high-performing but are a little bit bored. At the core of 3DE is a deep commitment to see how academic content is relevant to the real world and their futures.”

That was how Northview’s Singhal learned about business aspects she’d never encountered and honed other skills valuable to the workforce.

“I was very shy in middle school, and this helped me learn about public speaking and working in groups – things you need in real life,” she said. “I really liked working with Pulte (homebuilders) on how to get Millennials to buy a house – researching what they’d like from technology to the design, down to the granite counters and latest refrigerators.”

Hancock expects to have 25 3DE programs running locally in the next five years and for more to take off beyond Georgia. “This concept was birthed here, but it’s moving to a national platform. Our long-term vision is to have 2,500 programs in the next 20 years.”

Information about 3DE is online at


Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at or 770-744-3042.