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Colorado high schoolers take education outside the classroom for work-based learning

Colorado high schoolers take education outside the classroom for work-based learning
Colorado high schoolers take education outside the classroom for work-based learning 02:23

A large kitchen inside the Gaylord Rockies Hotel & Convention Center may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a classroom. Yet that's exactly what one of the Gaylord's kitchens became on Tuesday for Aurora high school students hoping to pursue a culinary career.

Like Carlos Rodriguez, a senior at Gateway High School. He might not look like a professional chef now, but he plans to be one someday.

"I love cooking, ever since I was little, and it's been my favorite thing to do in the world," he told CBS News Colorado.


Now, the teen is one step closer to chasing his dream as he got a hands-on lesson from a culinary pro.

"We learned how to debone a fish," Rodriguez said. "I'm having a good time. It's fun, and I get to try new stuff."

That's the point of the work-based learning program, a partnership between Aurora Public Schools and the APS Foundation. It gives students real-life training from industry experts in fields they want to pursue after they graduate.

"It gives you the opportunity to experience things that are either going to launch you, potentially, into your next steps after high school," explained Dr. Jeremy Jimenez, executive director of Student Success at APS, "or it's going to help make sure you understand that that may not be the path for you."

For this event, nearly 40 juniors and seniors from APS's five comprehensive high schools got to explore potential careers in four different areas of interest: Culinary, hospitality, media, and health care.


 Alliyah Hernandez Mejia is a senior at Rangeview High School and already knows she wants to work in medicine.

"Having the ability to save a life and do what's best in order to help secure people or to make a difference and serve others is something that's really big to me," She said, "and I would love for the opportunity to go into a career in which I'm able to do that on a daily basis."

And the ability to learn from health care professionals from UCHealth, she said, was "amazing" and affirmed her decision to pursue a career in that field.

"Even just doing this simulation," Hernandez Mejia said of the 'stop the bleed' course, "and [instructors] saying, 'You could save that life,' is something I feel really proud about."

The type of education students experience at the work-based learning program, Dr. Jimenez said, goes well beyond books. It also gives students a boost of confidence.

"Education exists to not just successfully get a diploma; it's to be successful in life," he said, "and to be a citizen who contributes back to your community. I think that's something that Aurora Public Schools is focused on."

And students are grateful for it.

"I feel like it shows care and love from our district," Hernandez Mejia said.

The program is also part of the APS Foundation's annual board retreat. It allows foundation board members to participate side-by-side with students during their workshops, and see up close how it provides opportunities for APS students to explore careers they're passionate about.

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