By Conor McCue

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Cherry Creek Schools is just days away from unveiling a new, state-of-the-art campus for career-minded high school students. It’s called the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, or CCIC.

It’s the latest curriculum in Colorado under the Career and Technical Education umbrella.

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Students who attend CCIC will still go to their home high schools for normal classes, but every other day they’ll come to the new campus for several hours. There they’ll take classes for seven career pathways: Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Health and Wellness, Hospitality and Tourism, Infrastructure Engineering (Building Trades), IT and STEAM, and Transportation.

As workers put the final touches on the campus Tuesday morning, eager students got a first peek. Among them was Grandview High School senior Rob Paulson, who will be one of the first Advanced Manufacturing students on campus.

“I think it’s pretty cool that you can be in manufacturing and get to work with all these tools and get certifications and it can definitely help you choose,” Paulson said. “I think I know what I want to do with my future now.”

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At CCIC, Paulson will work with the same machines he could one day use in his career. He hopes to get into the engineering or manufacturing fields.

The same goes for the students interested in other areas, such as IT or aviation. On the backside of the building is a large hangar with two airplanes and a helicopter for students to learn about maintenance.

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“I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Mark Morgan, Principal at CCIC. “It’s a dream to be able to offer this kind of opportunity to our students.”

This new trend in education allows students to work toward college credit and job certification. That’s something traditional schools can’t always offer.

“To broaden that scope and help kids, whether they’re going into college, going into the workforce, going into the military, helping each student with that journey and that pathway. As a school district, we’re really changing that narrative and saying it’s about a successful post-secondary plan, not just college, of which we’re still great at,” Morgan said.

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Alan Rydlund, an instructor for Advanced Manufacturing, sees it as a new way for students to learn what they want to do with their lives before they go into the workforce or to college. It’s also a new way to think about education.

“Teaching in the district for 30 years, we’ve kind of seen the pendulum go all the way from almost eliminating our programs 20 years ago to swinging way back this way, where we’re just super high tech and preparing kids for some really cool stuff,” Rydlund said.

Rob Paulson and his classmates couldn’t be more excited to get started with the school year.

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“I love this school. It’s awesome, man,” Paulson said. “There’s so many cool machines, so many people willing to help to teach kids and get you out there into the world.”

When asked about the possibility of growing the programs at CCIC, Morgan told CBS4 he plans on it. He said he’s already imagining more pathways, such as agriculture and renewable energy.

Cherry Creek Schools will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m., Aug. 1, to celebrate the new campus. It’s located at 8000 S. Chambers Road in Centennial.

Conor McCue

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