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Alternative launch pads - exploring career paths outside the 4-year college track

PIN logoAt its January meeting, the Parent Information Network (PIN) showcased alternatives to the traditional 4-year college track.  The skyrocketing cost of higher education has made college harder to afford.  At the same time, shifting global dynamics have increased demand (and wages) for skilled workers in a number of growing industries.  Presenters included:

Community College of Aurora – A two-year program focused on job training and opening paths to four-year colleges.  Many class credits are transferable to other colleges.  Representative Stacy Brown recommended the Ascent Program, which allows high school students who have completed 12 credit hours to complete a year of college courses while enrolled in a fifth year of high school.  “That gives them an additional year of coursework they can complete for free,” she explained.  See your guidance counselor for more information about Ascent.  

Colorado Culinary Academy – Offers a 12-week, hands-on, accelerated program in the culinary arts.  Chef Paul Stanley noted, “We get five phone calls a day from restaurants looking to hire a chef.  There’s no shortage of jobs.”  Students can attend a free Student For A Day session to see what the school is like.  The school is an American-Culinary-Federation-quality educational program.

CCSD Epic Medical Careers Class – A class offered at Cherry Creek and Smoky Hill high schools available district-wide to juniors and seniors interested in exploring medical careers apart from med school.  Students meet doctors, nurses, physician assistants, EMTs and phlebotomists, and participate in a cadaver lab at Arapahoe Community College.  “Showing up at 6 a.m. is the hardest part,” said Chris Stirrup, who teaches the class at Creek.  “Our curriculum can open their eyes to great careers that pay well,” he added.  

Jay Moore from the district's C-T-E program.CCSD CTE Classes – Representatives from the district’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) department spoke of the myriad options students have to explore their passions through targeted classes.  CTE Coordinator Jay Moore explained that CTE’s offering covers more than 79 career pathways.  “Our focus is on connecting students to high-demand careers,” he said.  The CTE website lists the CTE courses offered at each of the high schools, including classes in advanced manufacturing, criminal justice, the hospitality industry, aviation, commercial and advertising art, automotive and health sciences.  “Our emphasis on career preparation includes certifications at the associate, professional and even the expert level,” said Moore.  “That gives our students credentials they can take directly into their careers.” For more information about CTE visit here.

“The opportunities our students have are absolutely amazing,” said Kelli Buffo, also with CTE, citing examples like the Teacher Cadet Program at Overland High School for students interested in becoming teachers.  “CTE has experienced growth in enrollment from adding new programs,” said Buffo.  To increase accessibility, some classes are held at night and on the weekends; online classes may be offered in the future.  

Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull spoke of his vision for expanding CTE opportunities for students, while underscoring the district’s commitment to preparing every student for college, should they choose that route. 

“These are not minimum-wage jobs,” Dr. Bull explained.  “They’re real opportunities for students to go into careers and make a great living with a great life ahead of them.” 

To hear the podcast, go to

Mark your calendar for Tues., Feb. 2 to hear "Raising Heroes, Leaders & Champions: 5 Secrets to Developing Leadership in Kids." Visit for more information about other opportunities after high school.            

By Bobbie Turner, PIN Publicity.

Posted 1/15/2016 8:35 AM
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