While standing with students, teachers and business leaders in Las Cruces, Governor Susana Martinez today announced a new effort to open as many as five more Early College High Schools (ECHS) across New Mexico. In the third year of operation, the ECHS in Las Cruces works with a diverse group of students to help them achieve both a high school diploma and a workforce certificate or an associate's degree in four years' time. The Arrowhead Early College High School is home to over 325 students and has yet to have a single drop out in the school's history.
The governor later participated in a ceremony marking the opening of the second Early College High School in Las Cruces, which will focus on supporting students interested in entering the field of health care. Ensuring the provision of medical services and a greater number of health care providers is more important than ever before, especially given New Mexico's decision to expand Medicaid eligibility earlier this year.
"This is an example of the opportunity our students can have when a community partners with a school district to stand against the status quo," said Governor Martinez. The establishment of Early College High Schools in Las Cruces was made possible through the leadership of the local business community, Las Cruces Public Schools and New Mexico State University. "We want to see this kind of success across our state. We need community business leaders to stand up and offer bold solutions to help our educators create the best opportunities for our students."
Today, Governor Martinez invited business leaders, higher education administrators and superintendents from around the state to join in a student-led tour of the Las Cruces ECHS, as well as a luncheon and an interactive panel to further this initiative. Leaders from various communities were partnered with the individuals responsible for making the state's first Early College High School a reality for Las Cruces students.
Before the 2013 legislative session, Governor Martinez made expanding ECHS programs a priority of her education agenda. After the session, the Governor signed into law $500,000 to replicate ECHS programs in as many as five additional school districts. The funding presents a unique opportunity for business leaders in New Mexico to work with their local districts to develop new schools. Just like in Las Cruces, the business community will be expected to provide guidance and opportunities to students in their area to offer them experience, which can be utilized in the workplace after graduation.
"These students are the future workforce of our communities. It's critical for business leaders to invest their time and effort in helping educators ensure our students are ready," said Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera. "Working together, our educators and business leaders can give our students the advantage they need for the next big step in their life. It's clear our students will respond to the high expectations we set for them."
Communities looking to open similar ECHS will need to demonstrate a commitment from business leaders, school districts and higher education institutions to partner together to help students. Funding will be used to match commitments from the community to open more Early College High Schools, possibly as soon as the 2013-2014 school year.