Alternative High School Strategically Located in Sandia Science & Tech Park

Underserved students exposed to hands-on learning, high-tech careers, role models

This story is the second in a two-part series about innovative education in Albuquerque and its impact on economic development. Videos and a list of local nontraditional schools and programs for children of all ages can be viewed here.

Albuquerque high school students who are at high risk for dropping out of a traditional public-school setting or who are unlikely to attend college have an opportunity to get an alternative education on a campus that houses some of the city’s brightest tech minds.

Technology Leadership High School is strategically located in rented space at the Sandia Science & Technology Park so that it can collaborate with companies housed there and prepare students for college and careers in technology fields, startups or other business professions.

As opposed to classroom-style teaching, the charter school focuses on project-based learning. For example, an algebra teacher may share math concepts with the students and then ask the children to use what they learned to create a video game. Or, to learn about alternative sources of energy, the school has partnered with Public Service Company of New Mexico on a project where the students work to figure out how Albuquerque would respond in case of a two-week power outage.

“By applying what they are learning to something that’s tech-focused, we teach them what it looks like to work in technology,” said Velina Chavez, the school’s director of community engagement.

Technology Leadership High School is part of The Leadership Schools Network (LSN), a network of cutting-edge, industry-focused schools in Albuquerque. LSN schools are based on robust and active industries in New Mexico, seeking to provide students with the necessary skills to become successful professionals and meet the needs of our future workforce, according to its website, http://leadershiphsn.org/.

The tech park environment is equally important to the social and emotional education of the students and to changing their mindset to believe they have control over their futures. SS&TP companies do not merely provide a nice backdrop for the school setting, but they are integral to teaching collaboration and helping to build self-esteem and self-direction for students often unaccustomed to feelings of hope or self-worth.

“We’ve made a point of making sure that the high school is a part of the (park) community,” said SS&TP program leader Linda Looker. “The students have hosted our CEO lunches, companies have hosted kids on Manufacturing Day tours, and companies have also hosted school supply drives for the school.”

Students this year organized the tech park’s first Techy Trot, a 5K course created and organized by the students, with participation by company employees. Students learned about event planning, mapping a course and the health benefits of the exercise.

“It’s important for them to be in a dynamic environment where every day they see companies in the park, people walking or riding their bikes, going to work on time, role models, seeing the cars they drive. They start envisioning themselves in jobs such as these,” Looker said.

TLHS students are asked to create final products, host public exhibitions of their work and even public forums, where the students teach back to others what they have learned.

There are no multiple-choice exams. All learning is demonstrated through performance-based assessments.

The school opened two years ago with a single group of ninth-grade students. Enrollment this year stands at 150 students in grades 9 through 11. Next year, the school will have 9-12 grades, serving primarily underserved teens in the Southeast Heights and International District.

The school is also offering a night program called the Re-engagement Program for ages 18-24 who want a high school diploma, as opposed to a GED. Currently Tech has 33 students enrolled in the re- engagement program. The hours are intended to accommodate this older age group, who may have work and family obligations that prevent them from attending a day program.

For more information about Technology Leadership High School, visit http://www.techabq.org/.

Other schools in the LSN network are:

  • ACE Leadership High School, a public school focused on hands-on projects from the architecture, construction, and engineering industries. It opened in August 2010 in partnership with the Associated General Contractors and 11 other industry partners.
  • Siembra Leadership High School, a free, entrepreneurship-focused, public charter high school in Downtown that gives students access to relevant real-world projects through hands-on, learning. It is dedicated to inspiring students through entrepreneurship, innovation, and learning by doing.
  • Health Leadership High School, a public school dedicated to hands-on, project-based learning through the lens of the health profession. It opened in August 2013 in partnership with First Choice Healthcare, Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the University of New Mexico Hospital.
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