Rocky Mountain Innovation
This week we headed out to the base of the Rocky Mountains to visit an incredible program at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) in Centennial, Colorado. CCIC is a stand-alone college and career preparedness facility accessible for high school students in the Cherry Creek Schools. With Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum rooted in real-world skills and trade certifications ranging from construction to aviation to the automotive industry, this facility offers students a new kind of bridge to college, viable successful careers, and military service.
We were fortunate to meet with Mike Degitis, CCIC’s Project Coordinator, to learn not only how such an innovative program was able to begin, but how it is shaping both young people’s futures and improving the community.
In 2016, the residents of Arapahoe Country, Colorado, approved a bond measure to innovate a series of existing buildings on 40 acres. CCIC developed an educational framework for high schoolers with a focus on being “career focused” versus the status quo of “college centric”.
Today these efforts, along with the financial support of corporate donations, allow for roughly 130 students from high schools throughout the district to spend ½ of every other day at CCIC. These students apply real world technical concepts, complete their high school diploma curriculum requirements, and earn professional certifications. To date, the program has seen a nearly 100% graduation rate with roughly 1/3 of graduates deciding to pursue a career in the trades, 1/3 opting to attend traditional higher education, and 1/3 volunteering for military service – a truly impressive track record of success.
While the community’s need for skilled trade professionals led to the program’s development, Mike explained to us how the construction team is capitalizing on the program to assist the region’s homeless population. CCIC has partnered with Colorado Village Collaborative, and has to date delivered the organization 18 tiny homes to provide high quality shelter for the area’s homeless. The tiny homes completed by the students meet all city and county codes, and allow for an incredible hands-on opportunity to learn carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc. This incredible combination of workforce and community development should serve as a framework for districts across the country.
“These students start with plan reading, so they get a really good look at the architectural view of the home,” Degitis said. “They look at the structurals and then we start from the foundation all the way through finish. Our students have the opportunity to practice all these concepts of skilled trades – plumbing, electrical, steel, installing doors and windows, drywall, paint, everything from the ground up.”
Each tiny home costs approximately $15,000 to complete, and donations traditionally account for about 50% of the costs. Of course, material and cash donations are always appreciated.