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Students in the St. Vrain Valley School District get a boost in post-secondary education

“Our goal is always for students to have an excellent experience wherever they go and the focus programming, paired with our foundational work, really maximizes the chance that our students will be able to see into their future and graduate with a lot of hope and opportunity,” Dr. Jackie Kapushion said.
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Every high school in the St. Vrain Valley School District, or SVVSD, offers students opportunity for success no matter which path they want to pursue in life, but did you know those students also have a chance to get a leg-up on college degrees at the same time?

Open enrollment season for SVVSD schools starts Dec. 1, giving students the chance to find a school with focus programs that align with their interests for post-secondary education and future career paths.

SVVSD works from a two-prong approach, according to Dr. Jackie Kapushion, SVVSD deputy superintendent. One ensures that every school in the district offers a foundation of core content — including advanced placement classes — for student education that will set them up for success no matter what program they pursue, the second prong being specialty programs for post-high school education and careers like P-TECH and CU Succeed.

Partnerships with local colleges and universities, like the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, and CU Succeed, are just a few of the opportunities students have to get a jump on post-secondary education and career paths while still in high school.

“We always continue to add to the strength of our foundations and look for new opportunities and innovative programs to help students with their post-secondary pathways after high school graduation,” Kapushion said.

All SVVSD high schools offer robust athletics programs, visual and performing arts opportunities, advanced placement courses, STEM programs and more. With the post-secondary focus programs, the priority is to help students tap into their interests, Kapushion said. Being able to seek out coursework and paths of study in high school can help students determine if a specific focus is the right path, without committing thousands of dollars to a major in a college or university only to change their mind. 

“We offer the perfect opportunity for students to test out those pathways and explore their interests, so that upon graduation they are already knowledgeable and have some experience with those career choices and college majors,” Kapushion said.

“We take very seriously the preparation of all of our students and we live our mission to graduate students with a strong competitive advantage,” Kapushion said. “Part of our responsibility is knowing what’s around the corner in terms of opportunities for students post-graduation and exposing them to those opportunities early.”

Three SVVSD high schools offer P-TECH programs — Frederick, Silver Creek and Skyline — with specializations depending on the school, each a 4-6 year program. 

Skyline’s FalconTECH program partners with Front Range Community College, or FRCC, to help students earn an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems, along with mentorship and internship support from IBM. Skyline is now in its seventh year participating in P-TECH and one of only 14 schools partnering with IBM throughout the country, according to Principal Heidi Ringer.

At Frederick, students enrolled in WarriorTECH earn their associate degree in biochemistry through Aims Community College. Mentorship and internship opportunities come from Tolmar, Agilent, KBI Biopharma and AGC Biologics.

Frederick’s focus on biochemistry extends to the Biomedical Science Academy as well, according to Principal Dr. Russell Fox. Partnering with Colorado State University and the Innovation Center, the academy prepares students for careers in medical science and lets them dive into the field before going off to college, Fox said.

The RaptorTECH program at Silver Creek also partners with FRCC so students earn an associates degree with a focus on cybersecurity, with partnerships at Cisco, Comcast, PEAK Resources and Seagate Technologies.

While the PTECH programs place students on a specific interest path, CU Succeed allows for more wiggle room as students decide what the future holds. CU Succeed is a collaborative program offered by University of Colorado-Denver, in conjunction with Advanced Placement coursework. Participating students are enrolled concurrently in their high school and CU with reduced tuition rates, allowing them to earn college credits before graduating high school.  Frederick and Longmont high schools are the two primary CU Succeed schools in SVVSD.

Longmont High School Principal Jeff McMurry emphasized that the program not only prepares students for advanced education with college credits, but provides a cost benefit for students and parents for college opportunities.

Fox said the programs at Frederick and in SVVSD focus on helping students gain credits that are transferable within any school in Colorado, community college, state university or otherwise, but he encourages students to take on the challenge to show academic excellence when applying to out-of-state and out-of-country universities where the credits may not transfer.

“(CU Succeed) is where the majority of our school-wide college credit is earned because so many students take advantage of that,” Fox said.

According to SVVSD’s website, open enrollment “is an opportunity for a student to attend a school of choice which is outside of their attendance area.” Open enrollment is available to students in and out of the district starting Dec. 1. High school open houses have already begun, but private tours can be arranged by reaching out to schools directly.

“Our goal is always for students to have an excellent experience wherever they go and the focus programming, paired with our foundational work, really maximizes the chance that our students will be able to see into their future and graduate with a lot of hope and opportunity,” Kapushion said.

Correction: Article updated to reflect that Novartis Gene Therapy sold its Longmont facility to AGC Biologics, who have continued the partnership with Frederick.
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