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Students explore options

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dean Montroy had never stepped in a helicopter before, much less started one up.

DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL West Mesa High School students listen as instructors Ann Pflugrath, left, and Robin Carter discuss CNM’s nursing program during a recent open house highlighting the college’s Career and Technical Education programs.

DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL
West Mesa High School students listen as instructors Ann Pflugrath, left, and Robin Carter discuss CNM’s nursing program during a recent open house highlighting the college’s Career and Technical Education programs.

But that’s what the 10th-grade student from Nex+Gen Academy did during Central New Mexico Community College’s recent open house for career and technical education programs.

With the help of an instructor, Montroy started the engine and got to feel what it was like to sit in the cockpit as the propellers spun above him.

The helicopter display was one of more than 30 CNM programs highlighted in exhibits at the open house, which drew nearly 2,000 students from area high schools.

An increasing number of high school students is taking college-level, career and technical education (CTE) courses, a trend that is expected to improve college completion rates, according to a report released last week by the Education Commission of the States.

The report also links those dual enrollment courses with improved outcomes for traditionally underserved students. The education commission tracks policy and translates research, according to its website.

“In some cases, students in CTE dual enrollment courses outperformed those in traditional academic dual enrollment courses,” the commission said in a statement.

New Mexico high school seniors since the 2013 school year have been required to successfully complete at least one dual enrollment, honors, advanced placement or online course for graduation.

The CNM open house was an effort to encourage interest in such courses. It drew high school and charter students from 32 schools, compared to 15 schools last year.

Students toured CNM facilities and labs, learning about opportunities to earn college credit while in high school and speaking with area employers.

“I really like the variety of programs a community college has to offer,” said Etta Cavalier, a counselor at Valencia High School in Los Lunas, as she and her students watched a demonstration about CNM’s truck driving program. She said two-year colleges are a good option for many students, adding some find it easier to move from high school to a community college rather than a four-year university.

“It’s more of a gradual transition,” she said, noting that community colleges often have smaller campuses and smaller class sizes.

Jessica Skinner, a senior at Valencia High in Los Lunas, said it was nice to hear from the instructors about what job opportunities and career options there are in different fields.

“This is a pretty cool one,” Skinner said of the truck-driving exhibit. She has no plans to be a trucker, however. Skinner said she plans to attend CNM in the fall and wants to enroll in the college’s veterinarian technician program.

Jennifer McDonald, CNM’s associate director of outreach services, said dual credit courses satisfy the state’s graduation requirement while providing a college experience to high school students who may be unsure of their educational futures.

The national trend of more students taking dual enrollment courses is generally reflected in Albuquerque Public Schools. Spokesman Rigo Chavez said 710 APS students took classes in 2011, while the number this year is 1,247. He said 592 APS students are enrolled in two or more dual credit courses.

Nationwide, more than 80 percent of the nation’s high schools have students in dual enrollment programs, and nearly half have students in career and technical dual enrollment classes, according to the report. Studies have shown that CTE dual enrollment students are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a four-year college or university full time and persist in higher education.

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