“Community partners, it’s the real connections you make with students that make such a difference. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you,” said DPS CareerConnect student Chigo Egbune. Chigo grew up in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. Friday, he addressed Denver-area community partners and educators with sincere gratitude for helping him see how he could make a good living through intentional career planning, or as he says, “making money the legal way, with an education and without the help of a gang.”
Chigo is a shining example of the hundreds of students benefiting from the combination of rigorous coursework and work experience through DPS CareerConnect.
On Friday, May 17, DPS CareerConnect hosted a “Celebration of Impact” breakfast to recognize more than 200 education, government and industry partners who invest their time and talents to support the district in creating a national model for economic and academic mobility. DPS CareerConnect gives students ways to take the professional and content skills they’re learning in a classroom and apply them to a myriad of hands-on work experiences including exploration events, internships, mentor relationships, apprenticeships and more.
“It’s great to see kids light up when they realize what they can do,” said DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova. “ Last week, I had the opportunity to visit North High School and watch STEM CareerConnect students work with engineers from Lockheed Martin to build 3D prototype aircrafts that could serve in a humanitarian aid mission. These are the programs we want to invest in – I’ve seen the impact firsthand.”
It’s that real work – made possible thanks to community partners in a wide range of industries showing students what’s possible – that is so inspiring about the program. Educators recounted stories of students collaborating with an outdoor company to co-design a climbing park for local residents, producing and editing original audio tracks, designing a 3D model of Colorado through CAD design, interning in hospital emergency departments, designing video games and much more.
“I’m the oldest of four children, and will be a first-generation college student,” said Diana Galdamez, who is studying mechanical engineering and has completed coursework in CEC’s automotive program and a CareerConnect internship with United Airlines. “I’ve learned so many things that I didn’t know I was capable of, and without my education I wouldn’t be here.” She recently learned she was awarded a full-ride scholarship to complete her education, as a result of her hard work in high school.
Through CareerConnect, students go through a discovery process to uncover their strengths and interests, and find relevance in future career options.
“Because of my experiences with CareerConnect, I went from thinking I wanted to pursue a career in business to one in communications. My peers and I were going to just find a job after high school, because that’s all we knew. Now that I am taking college classes and learning from business leaders in the community, it’s given me the confidence to know I can make it in college,” said Chigo.
Partners have provided invaluable experiences to students through work-based learning opportunities, skills-based curriculum support and program sponsorship over the past year, leading to transformational outcomes for Denver youth.
“Promoting innovation in career education through our New Skills for Youth investment in Denver Public Schools enables youth to both contribute to and share in the rewards of a growing economy,” said Chris Jensen, Region Manager for the Commercial Bank for JPMorgan Chase. “Programs like CareerConnect help more young people in Denver build the skills they need to prepare for in-demand jobs while still in high school.”
DPS works toward making sure students see all possible paths – whether that’s the workforce after graduation, continued training for specialized certifications, or continuing their higher education at a four-year college. Students interested in learning more about CareerConnect should visit CareerConnect.DPSK12.org and talk to their counselor and teachers about pathway options available in schools.