Pikes Peak Community College and the Pikes Peak Prep have signed a collaborative agreement establishing a first-of-its-kind partnership, allowing the charter school to rent and conduct classes at the PPCC Downtown Studio Campus.

Pikes Peak Prep is the first K-12 charter school in the country to have signed such an agreement with a college to begin a Middle College program.

A collaboration between a high school and a college or university, Middle College allows high school students who qualify to enroll in and take college courses for credit. Students take a combination of core high school courses and college courses to receive their diploma and graduate. The core classes are provided by teachers employed by the high school while the college courses are taken alongside real college students at the college.

One of the many goals of a middle college program is to expose high school students who might not otherwise enroll in higher education into the college environment, demystify the college experience, and encourage those students to working toward degrees.

“We want to take the fear out of higher education,” said Mary Perez, Pikes Peak Prep’s director of Middle Colleges and its newest math teacher, “and revitalize clear, consistent communication with our families, to ensure high rates of success and quality education, leading to greater future employment opportunities for our students.”

The Charter School’s ‘competency based’ high school and college prep program allows students to master material at a comfortable pace, providing more time for additional coaching when necessary. The college-prep program is designed so that students will be ready to take college classes by the beginning of their junior year of high school. Helping make sure they are ready, Pikes Peak Prep has already adopted PPCC’s developmental curriculum in reading and math.

“We’ll be there all the way, to support our students and their parents, and to provide coaching, tutoring, and encouragement as they begin their college journey,” explained Perez.

Beginning this fall, high school students in grades 10 and 11 (and 12 in the future) will attend classes at the Downtown Studio Campus. Students who qualify will take college-level courses through PPCC and receive permanent college credit for those classes at no cost to the student, paid for by the charter school. Students can work towards a 2 or 4 year university degree or chose a career and technical education program in such areas as auto collision technology, CAD, computer information systems, culinary arts, criminal justice, medical careers, fire science technology, welding, multimedia graphic design, radio/television, early childhood education, and others.

PPCC and 21st Century are at the forefront of the effort to streamline education from preschool through college. By combining resources, this partnership creates a smooth transition for students, while maximizing the use of facilities and leveraging tax dollars at the same time.

“This organizational structure reflects the shared responsibility of both the high school and PPCC, in an effort to bridge the gap between secondary and postsecondary education,” Perez explained.

“The high school students will benefit greatly from being on a college campus, as they will get a first-hand look at college life and opportunities. They will be able to finish high school requirements and take advantage of a dual credit program, earning college credit for free.”

“I am especially appreciative of the work ‘behind the scenes’ with the PPCC faculty to facilitate this agreement,” said PPCC President Tony Kinkel. “The work done to build relationships across the cultural divide between K-12 charter schools and public community colleges is nothing short of astounding. This is a very important step toward creating a better future for so many students.”