Paul Duke STEM High School
Opening its doors in 2018, Paul Duke STEM High School opened in the heart of Peachtree Corners in the Technology Park area. This was a fitting location for this theme high school that was the first of its kind... a STEM school with a primary focus on technology. The school’s technology-infused STEM curriculum was developed with students and their future in mind. Its collaborative and connected classes, hands-on learning approach, and focus on learning with and through technology helps provide students with the critical-thinking, communication, and high-tech skills they need to be ready for college and career.
The school has 43 classrooms, three lecture halls, multiple technology and engineering labs, a student-run makerspace, and a dance studio. While it does not have traditional competitive sports, there will be traditional club and extracurricular activities like student council, robotics, and fine arts performances. Within the first few years, students launched a drone racing team, a rock climbing team, and numerous community service organizations. In addition to its unique theme, the school also offers students a non-traditional schedule where they attend school four days a week (Monday–Thursday) with a digital learning day on Friday. This digital learning day provides flexible opportunities for students ranging from senior internships to small group instruction to a student-run print shop.
The school’s innovative STEM programs focus on three primary areas: Applied Engineering and Robotics; Communication, Art, and Design; and Digital and Innovative Technology. For two years prior to its opening, an advisory group of school system, city, and industry leaders met to discuss and design how technology would enhance the curriculum for students at the school, which resulted in a technology-focused STEM curriculum that incorporates problem-solving through active, hands-on learning. In addition to its unique architecture, curriculum, and course offerings, the school was different in that it did not open as an anchor to a new cluster. Instead, it opened as part of the Norcross Cluster, providing much-needed relief to the overcrowded Norcross High School. As it shared the same attendance lines, it offered a choice for families in that area. Since its opening, it has worked in partnership with Norcross High School to serve the students of the Norcross and Peachtree Corners communities. In its first year, Paul Duke STEM opened with over 650 students, and by its third year, its enrollment was nearly 1,100.
Given its location and its technology focus, it was fitting that the school be named for Paul Anderson Duke, a visionary who coupled action and determination with flexibility and leadership to build a legacy that lives on today. He committed his life to improving the community in which the school stands. That commitment to community above all else earned him the affectionate title as the “Father of Peachtree Corners.”
Paul’s passion for giving his all dates back to his early days. His ability to put the team above himself resulted in this walk-on player for the Georgia Tech football team becoming legendary coach Bobby Dodd’s first All-American player. That laser focus on excellence was just as evident in his academic career. In his five years at Georgia Tech, he served as president of his fraternity, was an ROTC officer, and acquired two degrees. Paul parlayed his athletic excellence into one year of professional football with the York Yankees. (Yes, the New York Yankees had a football team from 1946 to 1949.) A highlight of this time included sharing a locker in Yankee Stadium with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.
After supervising the conversion of scrap metal into usable steel at Atlantic Steel for eight years, Paul spent the next three decades in Gwinnett County. The decision to locate the Southeastern division of the L.B. Foster Company to just inside Gwinnett County on Buford Highway was a turning point for Paul. It sparked his lifelong passion for finding, buying, selling, developing, and building commercial real estate. In 1963, Paul began the transformation of this area into what is now known as Peachtree Corners, dedicating himself full-time to creating a community where families and residents could live, work, and play (a new concept for the time).
Paul once again brought the best ideas and people together when he led the development of Technology Park, a 500-acre office park near the high school. He turned an innovative idea into reality, creating a business “community” to attract technology jobs to Georgia. His goal was to provide technology jobs in Gwinnett County as a way to attract and retain the best and brightest students from his beloved alma mater, Georgia Tech. In doing so, he created an economic engine that sits in the heart of the quality live-work-play community he envisioned.
Throughout his life, Paul earned accolades for his professionalism and commitment to the community. He was a past president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, founding president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, and past chairman of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Teachers as Leaders Program. In 1985, he was named Gwinnett’s Citizen of the Year by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
Paul Duke died in 2009 at age 84. Yet, Mr. Duke’s legacy continues today and it is fitting that his name be associated with a high school that infuses technology throughout its curriculum, prepares students for the future, and serves the community he loved so much.
In selecting its colors, Paul Duke STEM borrowed the cluster navy blue from Norcross High School and paired it with gold and white, in acknowledgement to Paul Duke’s alma mater, Georgia Tech. The school selected the Trailblazers as its mascot, as a trailblazer is a person who makes, does, or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular. As an innovative theme school, Paul Duke STEM embraces the trailblazing spirit that its community is known for as teachers and students seek to Learn Together and Lead Tomorrow.