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Students benefit from CCIC resources during summer months

CCIC students work in the CNA class in July.Donya Raeouf had just spent a busy morning handling a wide array of medical emergencies.

Around 11 a.m. on a sunny June morning, the 16-year-old incoming Cherry Creek High School senior was at the tail end of a busy nursing shift, one that included caring for patients who required immediate attention and care. Whether it was addressing life-threatening illnesses, changing soiled garments or helping with mobility issues, Raeouf had passed the morning squarely focused on her patients.

Those patients weren’t living, breathing humans, but rather state-of-the-art medical mannequins designed to teach beginning nursing students the basics of care. And Raeouf’s work didn’t take place in the halls of a hospital or nursing facility, but rather in one of the high-tech classrooms at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, the Cherry Creek School District’s standalone college and career preparedness facility.

Raeouf is one of dozens of students from across CCSD who have reported to the CCIC over the past several weeks for a series of summer courses. Raeouf enrolled in the CCIC’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course, which will open the door to Raeouf receiving a professional nursing certification before she graduates from high school.

“I saw the class and I wanted to test the field out to see if I liked it. I’ve fallen in love with this class,” Raeouf said. “It’s such a cool experience. I love the simulations and really getting to see what nursing is like … You really feel like you’re in a real, medical training situation.”

The CNA class is only one of many course offerings that have been available at the CCIC this summer. More than 100 students from all levels have studied subjects ranging from aviation to computer-assisted design. Whether they’re incoming freshmen looking to get a leg-up before the official launch of their high school careers or graduated CCSD seniors wrapping up some career-oriented learning before heading off to their next steps, all kinds of students have benefited from the CCIC’s resources this summer.

“We saw both ends of the spectrum. We saw a lot of young students who were so excited to be in the building, and we had five students who’ve graduated who’ve come back and accessed classes,” said Lara Kibbee, assistant to the CCIC principal and CTE administrator at the school. “They were all thrilled to be here. Attendance was near perfect; everyone was pretty excited to be in this building.”

Providing that kind of immersive, impactful and applicable learning has been at the heart of the mission of the CCIC since it opened its doors to students in 2019. From the beginning, the CCIC has offered seven academic pathways rooted in real-world skills, with a focus on putting learners in an industry-based culture and climate. The mission at CCIC has always been focused on connecting students with their pathways of purpose through firsthand experience.CCIC students work in a CNA class at the facility in July.

The CCIC has been a popular option for students since it launched, but the facility has faced challenges outside of its control. The COVID-19 pandemic closed down schools across the state, the country and the globe in March, 2020, less than a year after the CCIC opened its doors. That’s meant that the school has yet to complete a full year on a traditional schedule, as it’s altered its schedules to conform to safety guidelines tied to the pandemic.

According to Kibbee, the enthusiastic response to the summer schedule of classes from students, staff and administrators alike points to eagerness to get back on track and focused on the future.

“We made it through all the challenges,” she said. “We have the benefit now of our experiences. We’ll bring back the things that went really well, and we’ve adjusted other elements. I think there’s a sense of excitement for everyone.”

Learning through experiences has been a motivator for many students at CCIC. Not only do CCIC courses prepare students for certification in particular fields, but they also ensure that students learn in a unique, hands-on way. Raoeuf recognises her learning strengths well.

“I’m a very big work person. If you put me in any job, I love it. I love putting in that work ethic. However, I’m not as engaged when I’m in the classroom.” Raoeuf said. “I like it here [at CCIC] because I feel productive all the time.”

A summer dedicated to work-based learning as a student is one well spent, especially with the professional certification provided by some courses that create more opportunities in the future. According to Kibbee, the goal for CCIC is to ensure that its students have a sense of their future aspirations by the time they graduate.

After a year during which adversity obscured learning for many, students at CCIC rearmed themselves this summer with tools and resources to shape themselves for a better future. Their optimism goes hand-in-hand with their persistence to learn. Certifications are invaluable to shaping their careers from a young age.

“I definitely plan on working as a CNA through college because it’s a great starting job. I’m looking at colleges with programs that will consider the CNA license that I’ll already have. I will be a few steps closer to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) and eventually getting my practitioner license.” Raouef said. “This really sets me ahead by a couple years.”

The entire Cherry Creek School District is dedicated to recognizing the potential in each student. Thanks to programs like the ones available at the CCIC, they have developed another way for students to find their individual pathway to purpose. In this case, students have access to real-world experience that can shape their professional futures. It’s valuable education, even when it is not all too pretty. A rising senior at Eaglecrest High School in the CNA program, Colin Mullins understands this.

“Cleaning up all the bodily fluids has been pretty challenging- but it prepares me for what I’m going to face.”

-- Posted 7/12/21 at 1 PM