Power Technical Early College held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 19 for its first building, located on Constitution Boulevard east of Peterson Rd. in Colorado Springs.

“The genesis of PTEC was a decade ago,” said Jonathan Berg, James Irwin Charter Schools chief executive officer. “A conversation with students, capable kids who wanted to do things with their hands got us to where we are today.”

The James Irwin charter school in District 49 is one of only two schools like it in the state, and the only one in southern Colorado. PTEC is an innovative public school for grades 6-14. The high school component includes six-years so students can earn a free associates’ degree in applied science while simultaneously earning a high school diploma.

“Today, we need innovators more than ever,” said Dave Jeffery, owner of JPM Prototype and Manufacturing, Inc., during remarks at the event. “We’ve lost more than 52,000 manufacturing jobs in Colorado since 2001. El Paso County has led the charge, we’re the tip of the spear of the new renaissance for manufacturing in Colorado.”

Jeffery, a member of Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance South, a manufacturing alliance driving innovation and collaboration to strengthen Colorado’s manufacturing ecosystem, worked to bring PTEC to reality.

“It’s just a really efficient school,” said sixth-grader Andres Valencia, who recently moved to Colorado from New Mexico. “ It pays for two years of college and we’re really interested in that ‘cause we can grow up and learn about mechanics and constructive stuff.”

PTEC students focus on career and technical education, aimed at earning industry certifications and credentials in addition to an associates’ degree.

“We need people who deliver what we need, when we need it, with integrity and character,” said Peter Hilts, District 49 chief education officer, while sharing a personal story about a recent trip to Arizona that included a truck breakdown on Interstate 25 in northern New Mexico in the middle of the night.

Hilts explained how skilled 911 operators, sheriff deputies, tow truck operators and mechanics helped to get him back on the road. He related his experience to the education students get at PTEC.

We need skilled workers with the character and leadership qualities taught here,” said Hilts.

“I learn how to build things and make stuff with my hands,” said ninth-grader Abigail Hathaway, when asked why she chose the new school. “I’m going to learn how to eventually build a house someday and that’s what I want to do when I grow up, I want to be an architect. And hopefully I’ll have my own business of selling houses or something like that.”

Rob Daugherty, PTEC principal, concluded the ceremony by thanking erveryone who made the school a reality. He also shared his personal journey from a math instructor to principal of the school unique to the Pikes Peak Region.“As a math teacher, kids would ask, ‘When am I going to use this?’” said Daugherty, “At PTEC, our experiences will make those instant connections for our students.”

“You came here when we had no building, no teachers,” said Daugherty to the 160 students and their families that are opening the school. “We’ll look back and say, ‘Wow! We were the first ones, we were there at the beginning.’”