Carlsbad Receives Early College High Funding

Carlsbad Receives Early College High Funding Main Photo

1 Jan 2014

Las Cruces, NM - January 2014 - Gov. Susana Martinez announced four $100,000 grants Thursday to help start or expand early college high school programs in New Mexico.

Fourteen schools applied for the grant funding, which came from a Denver-based foundation. The chosen districts -- Gadsden, Carlsbad, Hobbs and Albuquerque -- are "exactly" where these programs need to be, Martinez said.

"This is a model to export throughout the entire state for the sake of our kids and the well being of our economy," Martinez told the crowd gathered at Arrowhead Park Early College High School, the first such program in the state.

The governor has visited APECHS in the past and repeatedly advocated for similar programs.

Grant recipients

Gadsden will use the funds to purchase technology for its Early College High School, which currently has 67 freshmen and sophomores.

The district hopes to purchase electronic polling systems, dual touchscreen board, laptops for classrooms and science materials.

Teachers currently "borrow and steal" technology from each other, said administrative intern Gema Salcedo, who oversees the early college high school program.

"We're in a very small community, and having that technology will open them up to what's out there," she said.

The Carlsbad school district will hire a principal to run the program and begin recruiting students and teachers with the grant, Kelli Barta, director of secondary education, said.

The district is partnering with New Mexico State University-Carlsbad and will use the university's facilities, she said. The early college program will focus on health and pre-engineering, as well as offering students the option of earning a certificate in mine maintenance.

The booming oil and gas industry in the region has encouraged students to leave school and join the workforce, she said. Positions like those in health care are left vacant, and the demand for trained workers in oil, gas and mining industries still isn't being met, she said.

"As an industry partner, we understand that this is the future of not only the education system but also the recruiting pipeline to fill positions in our industry," said Tonk Chester, human resources manager with mining company Mosaic, which operates in Carlsbad and is partnering with the school district on the initiative. "If we don't support these types of initiatives, we'll have to recruit people (outside of Carlsbad) that we don't know."

Hobbs school district will use the grant to start an early college high school with New Mexico Junior College. The district hopes to include students from throughout Lea County, providing busing to and from Lovington, Eunice, Tatum and Jal as well as Hobbs, Associate Superintendent Eppie Calderón said.

The school would use facilities on the junior college campus. The district hopes to open the program this August, but it is still in the planning stages, Calderón said.

"This money will help us get it started," he said.

Albuquerque Public Schools will establish the College and Career High School on the Central New Mexico Community College campus.

There will be nearly a dozen early college high school programs in the state by the end of the year with the help of this grant, Martinez said.

The Denver-based Daniels Fund awarded $500,000 to The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, which vetted the applicants. The remaining $100,000 will help cover unforseen expenses, The Bridge CEO Stacie Allen said.

Districts are required to partner with local colleges and businesses to develop their schools, following APECHS' model.


School and public officials lauded the benefits of early college high schools throughout the morning.

The programs aim to prepare students to have the maturity and skills they need to be successful in college and the workforce, officials said.

"This skill is all about employability," Allen said. "Why do we go to school? To get a job."

Students begin earning college credit as early as their freshman year.

"At the age of 15, they had already done what no one in their family had done," Salcedo said.

Freshman Jacob Dickens, 15, approached Martinez after the press conference and received a hug.

"I think it's a great idea to make more of these schools," he told her, later adding, "Everyone should have this opportunity."

At Arrowhead Park ECHS, more than 78 percent of third-year students tested proficient or above in reading, compared with 55 percent statewide, according to state data the Sun-News analyzed. In math, 67 percent tested proficient or above, compared with 42 percent statewide.

Eighty percent of the students will have earned an associate degree or community college certificate by May, when the first class of seniors graduates, Las Cruces Superintendent Stan Rounds said. Half of the students will have two associate degrees while three will have three degrees, he said.

Every student can succeed under the model, he said.

More than half of the students at LCPS' and Gadsden's early college programs are first-generation college students, officials said.

"These aren't kids where you take the cream of the crop and bring them in and declare victory," Rounds told the crowd.

Freshman MacKenzie Jackson, 14, said she chose to attend APECHS because it will get her "so far ahead."

"I want to be a psychiatrist and they require a lot of schooling," she said. "And I thought two years of that would be great."