The final weeks of 2018 were a time of rapid progress for the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus.
The CCIC won't formally open its doors to students until the fall of 2019, but recent weeks saw the completion of some important milestones for the new facility, from a formal beam-signing ceremony held on Nov. 29 to student-led work with a Denver architectural and design firm to finalize graphics and branding.
These events marked important progress for the state-of-the-art, 117,000-square-foot facility located east of Dove Valley Regional Park, which will serve as a unique resource for 11th- and 12th-graders from across the district. The CCIC will host a wide array of immersive, professional-based programs, curriculum designed to give high school students in the Cherry Creek School District practical experience in fields ranging from aviation to hospitality to entrepreneurship.
The campus is quickly taking shape across the 42-acre site near East Broncos Parkway and South Chambers Road. The beam-signing ceremony held on Nov. 29 took place directly in front of the main building, which is still in its formative stages. A single construction beam was propped up in the CCIC's parking lot, and officials spoke about the significance and meaning of the newest school in Cherry Creek Schools.
"From this day on, this whole project really fast forwards," CCSD Board of Education President Dave Willman told an intimate crowd of students, teachers, district administrators and construction officials during the formal ceremony held Nov. 29 at the CCIC site off East Broncos Parkway and South Chambers Road. The group had gathered to lend their signatures to a construction beam before a construction crane lifted it into the air and workers bolted it into place into what will soon be the CCIC's main building. "You, the students, are the inspiration for this. The CCIC is really for you; it will enhance what you do and how you learn."
Sarah Grobbel, the district's Executive Director of Career and Innovation, spoke about what the CCIC's focus on practical, professional skills will mean for future generations of CCSD students. She cited her favorite line from Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken," encouraging all present to not be afraid to "take the road less traveled by" as they pursue their educational passions. What's more, she gestured at the view of the open fields surrounding the CCIC campus and hinted at a future trend for learning in CCSD.
"Hopefully, this whole horizon will be filled with buildings of opportunity for our kids," Grobbel said.
Students from across the district haven't wasted any time in pursuing opportunities that are tied to CCIC. On Nov. 30, a cohort of students different CCSD high schools reported to DLR Group's downtown Denver offices to help finalize the look, feel and aesthetic identity of CCIC. Representatives from the DLR Group, an architectural, engineering and design group involved in the design of the new building, followed up with the students regarding previous discussions about the new building's graphics and design elements.
The visit on Nov. 30 gave the students the chance to follow up on original ideas for logos, imagery and color schemes related to the school. On a deeper level, the trip offered the students an opportunity to see the conceptual cornerstones of the campus at work in a professional environment; they had the chance to see concepts like problem-solving, innovation and teamwork at work in an open, modern and cutting-edge professional environment that will echo the classrooms and learning spaces in the CCIC.
"Going back to what's the purpose of our building, it's about creating opportunities for our kids in business and industry. As we're constructing and building the place, we really want to own that and put our kids in connection with the industry folks," said CCIC Principal Mark Morgan. "We feel like that will be the best way to get kids excited, just by walking in the front door."
Lindsey Brown, a senior at Cherokee Trail High School, and Natalie Yao, a senior at Grandview High School, had lent their voices to the process, working with other students to create graphics and other visual elements for the school. Though both Brown and Yao will have already graduated by the time the CCIC welcomes its first cohort of students, they feel like they've lent a legacy to this new, one-of-a-kind institution.
Brown, who's attending Colorado Mesa University in the fall, said that although she regrets the fact she won't be able to attend CCIC's first classes, she feels as if she's gained a wealth of experience in contributing to the planning process.
"It's meant everything. It's a unique experience, and not everyone understands that we're designing part of the building," Brown said. "Our voices are actually being heard."
The students' input will steer the design of the building, and their hard work will give professional, practical experience for the next phase of their lives.
"It's been exciting. We've been able to meet people from all walks of life," said Yao, who ultimately wants to attend law school. "It's one thing learning these things in the classroom, but it's a completely different thing to be actually experiencing it and really step into the shoes of the career that you want to pursue."
That, after all, is what the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus is all about.