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MACON, Ga. (AP) — An increasing number of Georgia high school students who are enrolled in career pathway programs are earning diplomas.

Statewide, 96 percent of seniors in career, technical and agricultural education programs graduated in 2017, The Telegraph reported .

That’s up from 94.8 percent in 2016.

By contrast, Georgia’s high school graduation rate for all students was 80.6 percent in 2017 and 79.4 percent in 2016.

The Career, Technical and Agricultural Education programs allow students to be engaged in their education and to see the relevance of it, Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement.

The programs also connect Georgia schools with business and industry, building a pipeline of students who are able to make meaningful contributions to Georgia’s industries and communities, he said.

“If you love something, which if you’re in a pathway that’s what you have an interest in, you then make a connection so you’re able to translate it back into your academic classroom. So kids that finish a pathway are highly likely to graduate,” said Cassandra Washington, director of such programs in Bibb County.

The 2017 graduation rate in Bibb County was 77.1 percent, but 94 percent of CTAE students earned diplomas, according to district and state reports.

Students in Bibb County can enroll in CTAE programs at Hutchings College and Career Academy, and Houston County students can take courses at Houston County Career Academy. Pathways at the schools include health sciences, hospitality and tourism, construction, teaching, and audio, visual and film.

This fall, Houston Career Academy will start a two-year pathway in audio-visual, technology and film, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program at Northside High School will move to the academy so it can be open to all students, said David McDermott, CTAE director for Houston County.

“Students who take part in our CTAE programs, they’re gaining skills to be successful in the workforce after high school,” he said. “They know the possibility of them getting out of high school with a diploma. They put a little bit of extra effort into that because they know that they’re moving toward a career.”

Students are able to see and touch the things they’re interested in, Washington said. The CTAE courses give them real-world experience that’s integrated with the curriculum. They gain soft skills, job skills and leadership training.

“CTAE is for all students,” Washington said. “The goal is that we actually graduate kids who are college and career ready. Being able to be exposed to your passion will allow you to excel academically.”