July 11, 2014 by Darrell J. Pehr, NMSU News Center
New Mexico State University Carlsbad will be the site of the third NMSU-affiliated early college high school this fall.
The campus is providing a building for the new school, which will give high school students in southeastern New Mexico the ability to earn a two-year degree or certificate while still in high school.
NMSU-C President John Gratton said the project was not possible without widespread support from the community.
“Community support has been huge,” he said. “The community said this is a great opportunity for Carlsbad.”
The new high school will be housed in the current computer building on the NMSU-C campus. It is the third early college high school project the university has helped with, the first being the Arrowhead Park Early College High School, established in 2010, and the second being the Arrowhead Park Medical Academy, which just opened. Both are in Las Cruces.
“Our first experience with an early college high school has been a resounding success,” said NMSU President Garrey Carruthers. “A zero drop rate and a very high percentage of the students graduating in the first class speaks to New Mexico’s needs – an internationally competitive workforce. Carlsbad will find that this program will launch their students into that competitive workforce or on to higher education.”
Gratton and other educational leaders in Carlsbad used the Arrowhead Park Early College High School as a model for the Carlsbad Early College High School. Funding for the new school is coming from various sources, including the Denver-based Daniels Fund. Earlier this year, grants from the Daniels Fund were awarded by the Bridge of Southern New Mexico and announced by Gov. Susanna Martinez to start early college high schools at Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Gadsden and Hobbs public schools. Each school received $100,000.
Additional funding is coming from the Carlsbad business community.
Michael Nuanes is principal of the new school. He brings three decades of experience in the Albuquerque and Artesia school systems, at the high school, junior high and middle school levels.
Nuanes interviewed all of the 115 students who applied for admission. Of that total, 63 are enrolling for the fall semester. These students will form the first freshman class. Additional groups will be admitted each year until the school has a full, freshman-through-senior enrollment.
Nuanes said the initial staff will include four people. English, mathematics and science will be taught. History classes will be added next year. Initially, students will focus on high school classes on an accelerated pace, with as much as two hours of homework a night.
“We’ll build a curriculum of rigor,” Nuanes said. Initially, the high-school-age students will take classes in the current computer building. As students progress through the curriculum, they will begin taking college courses that will count toward their high school as well as college requirements. During this time, they will intermingle with regular college students in courses taught by NMSU-C professors.
That interaction will be important to ensure the students are included in as many NMSU Carlsbad events and activities as possible.
“They’ll have that college experience,” Gratton said.
Students also will be able to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. Students will be bussed to the nearby Carlsbad High School campus so they can participate in sports and other extracurricular activities during the seventh period of the day.
Students who follow the curriculum will be able to earn an associate degree two weeks before they graduate from high school. They also will be able to pursue certificates in trades such as welding.
“I see this as a way to build a workforce in Eddy County,” Nuanes said. “Our mission is to give these kids a head start in college. We’re giving them that foundation to get ahead.”
Gratton also noted that area legislators have expressed strong support for the project.
“We have had tremendous support,” Gratton said. “They have been there all the time.”