U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Colorado Early Colleges Students and Staff Talk School Choice During Jan. 23 Listening Tour

PHOTO BY COLORADO EARLY COLLEGE. Deputy Secretary Mitchell “Mick” Zais visits Colorado Early College in Fort Collins.

Nicole Yost

Jan. 28, 2020 – Deputy Secretary Mitchell “Mick” Zais with the U.S. Department of Education visited Colorado Early Colleges (CEC) Fort Collins as a final stop on his listening tour leading up to National School Choice Week (Jan. 26 – Feb. 1).

CEC came highly recommended to Dr. Zais by Scott Stump, a former assistant provost for career and technical education for the Colorado Community College System who is now assistant secretary of career, technical and adult education at U.S. Department of Education.

“Parents and students deserve the freedom to find the best education environment to fit their unique learning abilities,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Mitchell Zais. “Schools such as Colorado Early Colleges offer students a choice to help them reach their full potential, regardless of their family’s income or zip code. I was especially impressed by the number of students graduating from high school with two-year associate college degrees as well as the strong sense of family demonstrated by the students, parents, and school staff.”

The hour-and-a-half-long tour and listening session introduced Dr. Zais to CEC’s early college model with opportunities to meet students and staff in high school and college courses, tour the school’s on-campus urban farm, iNNolab maker space, and farm-to-school scratch kitchen. A listening session allowed for comments and interaction between Dr. Zais and 30 CEC middle and high school students, alumni, parents, staff, and board members

PHOTO BY COLORADO EARLY COLLEGE. Deputy Secretary Mitchell “Mick” Zais visited Colorado Early College in Fort Collins.

“Dr. Zais agrees that education is not a one-size-fits-all issue and families want to have ownership in that part of their lives,” said Sandi Brown, chief executive administrator for Colorado Early Colleges. “It is important that the federal government understands the importance of serving students in this capacity and represent students and families by supporting choice.”

A large focus of the tours and discussion centered around individualized educational paths for students and CEC’s work with career and technical education (CTE) to fill employment gaps throughout the U.S.

“Our students graduate with associate degrees, certifications, and training so they can either pursue additional education through a four-year university or enter the job market and begin a career they love,” said Josh See, CEC Fort Collins head of school. “We meet our students where they are and work with them to achieve their own college or career path. Because of this, our students are exceptionally qualified for jobs across the U.S. immediately upon graduation or after pursuing additional higher education.”

During the listening session, Dr. Zais heard about student experiences at the school – everything from why students chose to attend CEC, to future career paths. Adrian will graduate with two associate degrees this May and both Sam S. and Makayla H. will be E3’s in the Navy upon graduation. Mothers, including Joliann Beck shared personal stories about how CEC’s model and focus on individualized learning changed their children’s lives. Beck’s two students will graduate with associate degrees this May – a brother and sister who are academically opposite but both thrived at CEC.

“At CEC, education and our work are all about the kids. It was an honor to see our students, parents and staff so passionately tell their personal stories about how school choice has positively impacted their lives,” said See.

About Colorado Early Colleges

Founded in 2007, Colorado Early Colleges (CEC) is a network of top-tier charter schools located along the Front Range. CEC is the state’s largest charter school network and the only early college middle school and high school network. CEC schools provide tuition-free public education that give all students the opportunity to earn a debt-free associate degree in high school. CEC campuses are located in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Parker, Aurora and Windsor with College Direct Satellites campuses located in Westminster and Highlands Ranch. Inverness and Castle Rock campuses will be opening fall 2020. Learn more at coloradoearlycolleges.org

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