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Incoming CCIC principal sees possibility, expansion in school's future

Incoming CCIC principal Steve DaySteve Day knew that the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus was a good fit for him as soon as he learned about its students, its mission and its resources.

Beginning in the fall, Day will take over as principal of CCIC, following the retirement of Mark Morgan, who opened the facility as principal in 2019. The mission and structure of CCIC, which serves as a stand-alone college and career preparedness facility accessible to high school students across the Cherry Creek School District, resonated with Day, partly because of his current job in Portland, Ore.

“I’m currently the director of the Center for Advanced Learning. It’s a school that’s focused very much along the same lines of the CCIC,” Day said, pointing to both institutions’ emphasis on connecting students with viable, real-world skills. “I thought that if there was any job that I was most qualified for, it’s this one. The CCIC offers a parallel to exactly what I’m doing now.”

CCIC students have access to curriculum rooted in seven professional pathways: Advanced Manufacturing; Business Services; Health and Wellness; Hospitality and Tourism; Infrastructure Engineering; IT and STEAM; and Transportation. The 117,000-square-foot facility located east of Dove Valley Regional Park offers students a wealth of state-of-the-art teaching tools and resources designed to develop professional skills. Thanks to the generosity of CCSD voters and the passage of the 2020 bond, these resources will continue to expand and grow for incoming CCIC students.

Day sees an unlimited amount of potential and possibility for the facility in the coming years. With attendance set to increase, and with additional professional pathways and instruction set to develop, Day said that CCIC is on track to become a model for career-based, professional learning.

“We’re talking about authentic education. We’re putting students in a place where they’re excited about what they’re doing … We’re saying, let’s talk about what industry looks like. Let’s get you out into the setting of the office, the factory, the workplace,” he added, pointing to the value of connecting students with tactile, experiential professional training. “This kind of education offers students the opportunity to find confidence and direction; the beauty of a place like CCIC is that students have the chance to dive into programs and explore.”

Day is quick to point to data that supports the value of such experiential education: higher graduation rates, higher completion rates, more students who successfully head to college or career.

All of these benefits are clear in the national data regarding professional, career-based education. When it comes to his new post in the Cherry Creek School District, Day says the importance of making sure such benefits remain accessible to all students is paramount.

“The enrollment of CCIC is representative of the district. That was what I was looking for when I was applying for the job. I didn’t want to go to a place that was excluding populations,” Day said. “CCIC is just at a whole different level from what I’m doing now. It’s bigger, it’s newer and it’s student-centered.”

After a year that saw challenges and changes in the wake of the global COVID pandemic, Day said he’s excited to work to rebuild some sense of normalcy for the 2021-22 school year.

“I was struck by the fact that CCIC has not yet had a full, normal school year. They opened in 19-20, then the pandemic hit in March,” he said. “Like everybody else, I’m hoping that August will bring us back to a relatively normal school year, with safety measures like masks and social distancing in place. I think it will be a great opportunity to take the initial vision of the campus and really see it through.”