ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Colorado Early Colleges (CEC) helps thousands of high school graduates across the Front Range earn not only their high school diploma, but also an associate's degree and post-secondary credentials — all tuition free.
CEC is the state’s largest network of early college middle and high schools that’s graduated more than 2000 students since 2007.
The network of schools offers families flexible and individualized learning based on their educational needs. Students take in-person and online classes from campuses and Colorado community colleges in Aurora, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Castle Rock, Windsor, Parker and Inverness.
“We are transforming the way that education is being served,” said Dr. Jay Egger, Colorado Early Colleges Inverness head of school. “100 percent of our graduates last year, in addition to their high school diploma, earned one of three things—an associate degree, 60 college credits, or an industry certificate.”
CEC Inverness is located near the Denver Tech Center and was started in 2020 during the pandemic with 70 students taking classes remotely. Now, the school offers more than 400 students part-time enrollment options for on-campus and online learning to both homeschooled and non-public school students.
“That was the ultimate goal is challenging the traditional norms of education,” Eggers said. “Introducing this school to a community when times were tough, that offered different modalities that was focused around four pillars: academic success, college and career preparedness, social and emotional development, diversity/equity/inclusion, and access…those four pillars were very important at a time (when) our system needed that.”
The early college high schools operate differently from other schools offering concurrent enrollment. The result is early college students get further ahead in their college careers, saving them an average of $30,000 in college expenses. It’s an opportunity that caught the interest of CEC Inverness student Tyler Del Ciotto, who’s taking online classes from both Arapahoe Community College and Metro State University of Denver as a sophomore in high school.
“I have the flexibility to take classes at different colleges,” he said. “I was public schooled almost my entire life, so I like the new change where I was able to instead of having to take seven core classes a week, (it’s) just tests and then you have a list of credits you need to fill and I’m able to take just those specific classes.”
Tyler’s sister, Jacqueline Del Ciotto, is also taking classes from CEC Inverness. She’s a junior in high school taking classes remotely while earning college credit. It’s a flexibility she can appreciate. Jacqueline is a ballet dancer in a pre-professional program and rehearses from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day.
“I have the athletic extra-curricular, so I can do what I love during the day,” Jacqueline said. “I can come home and do my schoolwork and then still be challenged like in a normal school and get college credit towards what I might want to do when I go to college.”
CEC also connects students with internships and apprenticeships through their partnership with local businesses like Baxter Planning. Chad Hawkinson is their chief product officer and says the program gives students real-life experiences working in an actual company doing work-based learning.
“It’s communication, project management, how to manage your career, how do you get results,” Hawkinson said. “To really know what happens out there in the world and making that connection of what you learn in the classroom to ultimately what it’s going to be worth or how it’s going to be valuable to you in the career.”
CEC’s goal is to give students the chance to grow and take ownership in their education. It’s a goal Eggers said his school is achieving.
“Each student matters,” he said. “Inside these walls, we are going to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that every student has the opportunity to succeed.”
For more information about CEC Inverness, click here.
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