Van Horn Technology Early College High School to open this fall

By Karolyne Carloss & Sondra McCoy

Culberson County-Allamoore ISD

The global pandemic has presented tremendous challenges to the students, staff, and families of CCAISD this year. Yet, despite the uncertainty of this public health moment, CCAISD strives to continue delivering first-class opportunities and programs for our Eagle students. A program that CCAISD is proud to offer this fall is Van Horn Technology Early College High School (VHTECH), a designated P-Tech model.

Robotics students Alyssa Luna, Elijah Ledesma, and Estrella Urias are hard at work building and programming their robots in a Project Lead the Way class.

P-Tech is a rigorous, accelerated academic and career prep program founded in 2011 by IBM and education officials in Brooklyn, New York. The P-Tech program sets forth an ambitious goal: students who begin in ninth grade will complete a high school degree, an associate’s degree, and work-based learning opportunities in four short years, completely tuition-free. This model relies on bringing together school district staff, educators, executives from regional businesses, and an institute of higher education to develop academic pathways and certificate programs that directly prepare students for positions in high-demand, regional occupations. P-Tech models across the country are improving college completion rates, connecting students to meaningful career pathways in their hometowns, and helping businesses prepare a pipeline of future, industry-ready employees and leaders.

In 2017, Governor Greg Abbott provided $5 million in planning grants for districts throughout the state of Texas to develop P-Tech programs. In Spring 2019, CCAISD was one of only ten districts in Texas to receive the 2019-2020 P-Tech Planning Grant and $50,000 from TEA to create an early college high school model. Over the past year, our district team has identified regional workforce trends and assembled a Design Leadership Team to create the framework for VHTECH. The Design Leadership Team includes representatives from Odessa College, Blue Origin, Natural Minerals, and Pecan Grove Farms, as well as district staff, education experts, and community leaders. Throughout the past year, the Design Leadership Team has met monthly to discuss future workforce needs and how to best prepare CCAISD students for trade or collegiate studies that lead to high-paying, stable jobs in our region.

Van Horn Technology Early College High School will open its doors this Fall for incoming ninth graders. VHTECH students will enter high school and have the ability to graduate with an associate’s degree from Odessa College in Instrumentation & Electronics (I&E), Welding, or General Studies with a focus in STEM elective courses. Each of these degree pathways can be completed in the same four years traditionally dedicated only to high school studies. Students enrolled in the Welding and I&E courses of study will also have the opportunity to earn certificates in Structural Steel Welding, Sheet Metal Welding, OSHA Training, and Remote Drone Aviation. VHTECH plans to offer as many of these classes as possible to incoming 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.

Throughout their degree program, VHTECH students will receive mentorship from local industry experts in the form of resume and interview workshops, site visits, and career talks. Students will culminate their degree programs with apprenticeships or job shadow opportunities at Natural Minerals, Pecan Grove Farms, or Blue Origin. Furthermore, VHTECH graduates will be given priority interviewing for any relevant position they apply to and are qualified for within these three, growing companies.

Odessa College is an Aspen Prize Top 10 Community College, and CCAISD has been grateful for their willingness to support VHTECH students from over 160 miles away. Odessa College has invested in cutting-edge remote education technology, and they are committed to providing an exemplary distance education experience for all VHTECH students. Odessa College recognizes that in-person instruction should be prioritized whenever possible, and they have worked with CCAISD to credential two of our current staff members as Odessa College professors. Brock Tyrell has been certified as an adjunct welding professor and Marcial Gonzales has been certified as an adjunct instrumentation and electronics professor. In a remote, rural area, this credentialing process allows us to teach onsite college courses for the first time ever in Van Horn, and CCAISD is committed to increasing the number of onsite college classes as VHTECH grows.

The strength of VHTECH lies in the partnership between CCAISD, our industry partners, and Odessa College. Building a successful cradle-to-career pipeline requires honest discussion and a readiness to bridge the gaps between academic preparation and career expectations together. CCAISD is deeply grateful for our Design Leadership industry partners: Dr. Jonathan Fuentes and Dr. Jennifer Meyers from Odessa College, Ben File from Natural Minerals, Eddie Seyffert from Blue Origin, and Becky Wiley from Pecan Grove Farms. These leaders jumped into the project with enthusiasm and heart, always believing in the enormous potential of CCAISD students. Our partnerships with Odessa College and our three industry organizations have been formalized via signed Memorandum of Understanding documents (MOUs) and each organization has committed to dedicating future time and resources to the continued success of VHTECH.

With the support of our partners, CCAISD submitted its final design application in January and received its provisional P-Tech designation status from TEA shortly thereafter. CCAISD is proud to announce that the district recently received the 2020-2022 P-Tech Success Grant and an additional $150,000 from TEA to implement and grow the program over the next two years. CCAISD was one of only seven districts in the state of Texas to receive this competitive funding opportunity.

VHTECH is here to stay and promises to pave a new path for Van Horn students. Superintendent Ken Baugh and his team founded the Van Horn Education Foundation in 2018 with the goal of raising a $10,000,000 endowment to fund all future VHTECH Associate’s degrees, ensuring the success of CCAISD students for many decades to come. In order to grow this endowment more quickly and achieve self-sustainability, VHTECH needs donations from community members and readers like you. If you are interested in donating, please visit https://bit.ly/vhedfoundation. Every donation is an investment in the future success of our students and the future success of our community.

To learn more about the VHTECH program, please visit https://bit.ly/vhtech, or reach out directly to Sondra McCoy, Academic Provost of VHTECH.