North Central News

Charter school partners with GCU

By Teri Carnicelli

Empower College Prep has finalized a new partnership with Grand Canyon University (GCU), offering its high school students the opportunity to earn college credits starting this school year, as well as working with student teachers from GCU, and giving access to the college’s Learning Lounge for Empower’s students.

Claire Lee (standing, center), a senior at Grand Canyon University who is majoring in secondary education with an emphasis on mathematics, works with students in Katie Long’s geometry class at Empower College Prep (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

With a mission of providing every student the opportunity to go to college if they desire, Empower’s partnership with GCU gets students yet another step closer to achieving this goal, points out Brian Holman, executive director of Empower.

The tuition-free charter school first opened in 2016 at 2411 W. Colter St., after purchasing a medical offices campus that was almost fully constructed, but abandoned more than six years ago. After fixing damage from vandals over the years and putting the finishing touches in place, the school opened with a freshman class. In 2017, Empower added both an eighth grade and a tenth grade. This year, the school has a junior class of 52 students, which will see its first graduating seniors in 2020.

Currently the school offers dual enrollment in college-level credit classes in math and English. The teachers offering these classes first had to complete several classes to obtain certification from GCU.

“Being able to offer dual enrollment is big for a small school like ours,” says Bob Rossi, principal. “We hope to add a math option next year.”

Part of the new partnership also includes offering on-campus teaching opportunities through GCU’s teaching certification programs. Currently, five GCU students who need to complete their practicum hours are volunteering in classrooms, for math and Social Studies. Some are merely observing, while some are student teaching.

Claire Lee is a senior at Grand Canyon University who is majoring in secondary education, with an emphasis on mathematics. She started her student teaching at Empower in early September, and even though she completed her required 30 hours, she committed to stay on until the end of the semester, volunteering primarily in geometry and algebra classes.

“I like getting the mentorship from the teachers, seeing the different ways the explain math problems so that the students can really understand them,” Lee said. “I also really enjoy getting to know the students.”

In addition, Empower students can take advantage of GCU’s Learning Lounge study center, where high school students can receive free one-on-one and small group learning sessions, Monday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. GCU students who work in the Learning Lounge are excelling college scholars in math and reading, specially trained to work with high school students. Empower provides bus passes to its students to go to the Learning Lounge if they are interested in taking advantage of the free service.

Currently at Empower College Prep there are about 400 students in grades 8-11, with a maximum capacity of about 600. However, the school is in the process of organizing financing to open a K-5 school building and a new gymnasium, on an empty lot to the south that the school has already acquired. The goal is to break ground in December and be open by summer 2019.

For more information about Empower College Prep, visit http://www.empowercollegeprep.org.

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