Cherry Creek Innovation Campus takes students beyond high school

New career-technical facility is springboard for industry skills

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Leave the literary analyses of Shakespeare at home — Cherry Creek School District's new campus lets students practice exactly what they may end up doing in the real world.

“This is just unbelievable because the machines they have here, it's nothing like they have at Grandview,” said Robert Paulson, 17, standing in an advanced manufacturing room at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus.

Starting this school year, students like Paulson who attend the Cherry Creek district's high schools will have more room to zero in on an industry skill they're passionate about. The new, 117,000-square-foot campus opens Aug. 12, offering many areas of study — from construction management to cooking, from airplane maintenance to cybersecurity.

“I haven't really always known what I wanted to do, but this is a great place to help make up your mind with what you want to do with the future,” Paulson said.

Designed for both the college-bound and students looking to go straight to the workforce, the Innovation Campus will offer college credit and industry-recognized certifications.

And even the building itself is designed in the spirit of helping kids discover their passions, said Jocelyn Nguyen-Reed, an information technology teacher at the campus.

“How does what we believe about education influence the architecture and furniture?” Nguyen-Reed said. There's “a lot of glass (windows), where students can see what others are doing. We don't just want students who know what they want to do.”

Nguyen-Reed's IT department is just one of seven “pathways” students can immerse themselves in: Also among them are advanced manufacturing, business services, health and wellness, hospitality and tourism, infrastructure engineering — or building trades — and transportation. Within those areas are more specific studies, such as automotive tech or virtual reality.

The ethos of the campus speaks to a firm belief of Cherry Creek Superintendent Scott Siegfried: Not every kid has to attend college to be successful.

In the aviation maintenance area of study, instructor David Williamson said local businesses could start new hires in the industry at as much as $50,000 per year. The district says the campus boasts the only Federal Aviation Administration-certified high school program in Colorado.

A school cafe will also serve as a door into the fast-paced world of food service, where cooking students will take part in everything from preparing food to helping develop the menu. That cafe aims to eventually be open to the public, said David Bochmann, chef instructor.

“Every high school principal wishes for graduates to move on to happy and healthy lives (with) effective postsecondary plans to help them (reach) their dreams …” said Mark Morgan, Innovation Campus principal. “This place is a dream. As a parent and a principal, I could not be happier.”

The 2016 Cherry Creek district bond paid for the campus, located at 8000 S. Chambers Road near East Broncos Parkway. It sits in the Dove Valley area of unincorporated Arapahoe County, which includes much undeveloped land just outside central Centennial.

The Cherry Creek district's high schools will continue to host a wide range of career-technical education programs, a pamphlet for the campus says. The Innovation Campus will enhance that programming and offer more advanced and sophisticated opportunities, it adds.

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