CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Imagine going straight from high school to a high paying job, no college degree or additional trade school needed. One innovative high school in Colorado is giving students the ability to do just that.
Thor Barlow, like many other students, didn’t know what he wanted to do as he approached the end of high school.
"Last year, my junior year, I didn't know what I wanted to do,” said Barlow. “Am I going to go to college? It was this whole frantic thing."
It wasn’t until Barlow signed up for Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) that he found his passion.
"Ideally my ultimate goal is to be a pilot,” said Barlow.
Students go part-time to regular high school and the other half to CCIC. For a fee, they can take part in advanced manufacturing, health and wellness, hospitality, and transportation programs.
You might be thinking, what's special about innovation campus, when high schools across the country offer vocational classes? But principal Mark Morgan says they’re different.
“About half the kids we have right now will go right into the workforce with an industry recognized certification," said Morgan.
Society has led kids to believe that a college education is the only way they can land a well-paying job but going to college has left many people drowning in debt. College loan debt is now around $1.6 trillion in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Morgan says college is great for some of their students, like Morgan Stevens, who’s in the construction program.
"I will have a lot of knowledge from here that other people going into college won't have so I’ll have a head start,” said Stevens. "I will also be exempt from some courses at college because I will already have certifications."
But for others, college might not be for them, especially if they want to save money.
“In our aviation program, if they were to start with us as a sophomore and take that accelerated program all the way through to graduation, it would cost them $1,000 but if they were to take that same education after they graduate, it would cost them about $40,000," said Morgan.
No matter the path these kids choose to take, Morgan says they just need to be given the opportunity to succeed.
“Whether it's college or the workforce, what we are hearing loud and clear from our community lets us give our students the opportunity to learn more about this in high school and see where it takes them," said Morgan.