Students at College & Career High School Putting Their Goals on Fast Track

September 18, 2013 -- They look like typical high school students – jeans and t-shirts, sneakers and shorts. But there’s something different about these teenagers. They’re already in college, taking the fast track to a degree.
Students at College & Career High School Putting Their Goals on Fast Track

Jul 17, 2015

There are 78 high school students from across Albuquerque attending the new high school on CNM’s Main Campus, called the College & Career High School. The school is operated by Albuquerque Public Schools in partnership with CNM. The students attend high school classes in the morning, then attend dual credit college classes in the afternoon or evening that count for both high school and college credit. Through CNM’s popular Dual Credit program, there is no cost to the student for tuition or textbooks, which can save thousands of dollars on a college education. The college credits are transferrable to four-year universities in the state.

The goals for the students at the College & Career High School are to either earn a certificate or associate degree from CNM by the time they graduate from the high school, or have enough college credits to enter a university as a junior when they leave the high school.

“Our students vary, like all high school kids,” said Elizabeth Abeyta, the principal for the College & Career High School. “They come from all backgrounds. Some have already successfully taken many college courses through the CNM’s Dual Credit Program; some are minorities; and some are the first members of their families to attend college. The one thing they all have in common is that they are goal driven. They know exactly what they want to do.”

Junior Yulissa Alvarez, for example, wants to major in nursing. Arris Walker, a senior, plans to attend medical school, while his twin brother Ceznery Walker intends to major in business.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity to get college credits while I’m still in high school,” Arris said. “The most important thing is to get my credits so I can get into medical school. I feel like I can do that here. At first I was a little bit nervous, but now I feel great about it.”

Abeyta said that organizing the launch of a new high school was a” real adventure.”

“It normally takes a year to start a school from scratch,” she said. “We did it in four-and-a-half months.”

The College & Career High School is operating out of the S Building on the northeast side of CNM’s Main Campus. APS teachers conduct high school classes in the S Building in the morning before the students attend their college classes in the afternoon across Main Campus, just like regular college students.

“The launch of this new high school is a great step forward for public education in New Mexico,” CNM President Katharine Winograd said. “CNM and our terrific partners at APS have great hopes for this school and the positive impact it can have on K-12 and higher education in the region. CNM and APS are going to provide the ambitious students of the College & Career High School with all the support they need to succeed in high school, college and their career.”

Students at the College & Career High School were recruited from throughout Albuquerque. The only students excluded from being eligible for the school are those who have to retake a course because they didn’t successfully complete it. Other than that, the only requirements for admittance are ambition and a willingness to learn.

Students must take the same core courses they would need to graduate at the high school in their home district, such as English, World and U.S. history, economics, government, physics, chemistry, algebra II and geometry. In the afternoon or evening, they take CNM classes in the fields of study they’re interested in pursuing as a college student. They are required to take at least two CNM classes a term. Some take their classes at another CNM campus or even online through a distance learning program. Seniors tend to take additional CNM classes because their time is more flexible.

While getting a high school up and running in four months was an adventure, the real challenge was scheduling the students in their college classes. “By the time we identified our students and started scheduling their courses, a lot of classes were already filled,” said Karen Krall, school dean. “We had to make special efforts to get the students in the right classes.”

The two most popular college courses taken by the students are an introductory information technology class, which is required for a degree, and a college success course that helps them acquire skills needed to do well in college. One student is already taking an engineering class.

Krall noted that the high school students are treated no differently than CNM students. “They have to find parking spaces just like anyone else,” she said. There is no high school cafeteria, so they have to use the CNM cafeteria or bring their lunch. Like all CNM students, they had to take the Accuplacer Exam, which tests their skills in reading, English and math to determine the levels of classes they should take.

She called College & Career High School a “no frills” high school. There are no extracurricular activities at the school like band, football or drama clubs. However, the students can return to their home high school to play on sports teams or participate in other extracurricular activities.

Among the many perks of being on CNM’s campus is that the students get to access the wide variety of student support services offered by the college, from access to CNM achievement coaches to library services to tutors. The students pay no tuition and are given their books free of charge; the books do have to be returned at the end of the term.

“What’s best about our school is the support we have received from APS and CNM,” Abeyta said. “The support comes from the top all the way down. It’s a real partnership.”