The HHS Game Art and Design Academy: An Introduction

By: Kara Haselton

Here’s a fact: Heritage High School is a top-notch school.

Many articles could be written, and many reasons could be listed as to why HHS is just that good. But one reason that proves Heritage’s value is one that many overlook, and one that others are simply ignorant of — the Game Art and Design Academy.

Yes, there is, in fact, a secret school inside the walls of Heritage High. The kids in this school go along their daily schedule experiencing something different than the rest, but no one notices.

Well, the secret is out.

The Game Art and Design Academy at Heritage High School is one of the only gaming academies in the nation — that alone should make Heritage stand out. Dr. Savage, Heritage’s former principal, introduced the Academy a year after Heritage opened. He hired Mr. Bullock to be the coordinator and mastermind behind the entire operation.

“Heritage is really good with data and with trying to dial into what the kids are interested in, and there were a whole bunch of kids interested in graphic arts, graphic communications, classes like [Scientific and Technical Visualization], but there wasn’t an established program,” Mr. Bullock explained. After Dr. Savage realized these common interests existed among Heritage students, he wanted to help them grow beyond what a typical high school setting could give them.

“After I made it public that I wanted to leave [Wakefield Middle School, Dr. Savage] hit me up and said, ‘Hey, we have Heritage High School, and we have CTE at Heritage but we don’t have a program in graphic arts,’” and that’s where it all started.  

Academies are not uncommon among schools in the US. There are even other schools in Wake County that have different kinds of academies, such as the Culinary Arts Academy at Cary High School, and the Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Marketing Academies at Broughton High School. Academies are essentially centered around one theme, and all the classes that students take focus on and around that theme. Mr. Bullock and Dr. Savage were intrigued by the notion and success of academies, leading to the creation of the Game Art and Design Academy. “I [wouldn’t] want to go to high school and just take a bunch of random classes that don’t connect in any way,” stated Mr. Bullock. “If I’m interested in this, how do I turn my interest into a skill, and how do I turn my interest and skill collectively into a career that I could enjoy and make a substantial amount of money? But more than the money, I could make a difference.”

Mr. Bullock’s desire was to help students interested in video games and computer graphics to turn those interests into something that they could actually live on as a career, something productive. Gaming doesn’t have to just be a pastime or a distraction and get a bad reputation. It is possible to take that love and interest and make it a beneficial career, even starting as early as ninth grade. Concentrating on one central theme and learning different subjects, such as English and social studies can sharpen and enhance the skills students need to succeed in the “real world” industry they will be going into after high school. That’s what Mr. Bullock, Mr. Delgado and the others involved in the Game Art and Design Academy hope to achieve.

“Making a connection between your interest and your career and the gap is just developing skills, that’s what school is about. That’s the main benefit of having an academy. You get to see that, experience that; you also get to experience success, and what it feels like to be successful. And that’s very important for someone, especially when they’re young.”