SILER CITY - The Chatham School of Science & Engineering (CSSE) has made tremendous progress since opening in the 2015-16 school year.
The public school, which is operated by Chatham County Schools in partnership with Central Carolina Community College, currently is home to approximately 120 students. Students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost to the student.
The school lists its mission "to provide an atmosphere that encourages and nurtures creativity and innovation through acceptance, collaboration, equity, integrity, and personal responsibility in order to help students build a commitment to social, emotional and academic growth and excellence."
CSSE Principal Bobby Dixon has been with the school since its beginnings. "The early college program has its appeal to parents and students," said Dixon. "The no-cost college really appeals to the parents, and I believe the rigor and higher expectations attracts those students who are dedicated to academics. It was certainly time for Chatham County Schools to enter the early college arena. I also believe our partnership with CCCC has played a large role in our success."
That academic success was certainly evident during the 2021-2022 academic year. This year's graduating class earned over $2.3 million in scholarships. One graduate - Dylan Hailey Philipps -- received the prestigious Park Scholarship from N.C. State University. Three students - Deontae Jordan Glover, Soren Kappelman, and Annika Lowe - were recipients of CCCC academic honors. CSSE students continue to dominate the district science fair and advance through regionals and state, and the Beta Club has had state and national winners.
"Our smaller environment enables our students and teachers to develop positive relationships. The amount of support we are able to provide makes us unique," said Dixon.
Fae Goodman has had a close-up view of CSSE's growth, as CCCC's liaison to the school. "We've got a unique setup -- students spend their first two years in Siler City, on the campus of the Chatham Center for Innovation, where they focus largely on their high school requirements and learning how to successfully take a college class. For their third, fourth, and fifth years, they're here in Pittsboro on our [CCCC Chatham Main] Campus full-time," said Goodman.
"Students who come here get to learn -- in a supportive environment -- how to balance increased freedom and responsibility, which always go hand-in-hand with one another," said Goodman.
CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman says early colleges have been part of North Carolina's Learn and Earn initiative for over 17 years. "Our early colleges in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee are some of the best examples of CCCC's great partnerships with our three counties' school systems," said Dr. Chapman. "They are intentionally designed to both serve a diverse population of students that reflects the demographics of our communities, and to provide these students with the personalized programming and support that allows them to excel in their learning and academic goals.
"Many of our early college students serve as student leaders during their time at CCCC and continue that leadership and service mindset during their next stop after the college. They are not just our leaders of tomorrow, they are our leaders of today," said Dr. Chapman.
"The relationship Chatham County Schools has with Central Carolina Community College is extremely strong, benefiting our students as well as the community," said Chatham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson. "The early college program we have created in partnership with CCCC showcases the work we can do together. With our students graduating from the Chatham School for Science and Engineering with both a degree from Chatham County Schools and an associate's degree they've earned by taking classes at Central Carolina, we are able to give them a great advance on their college education.
"The students enrolled in the Chatham School for Science and Engineering are dedicated to their education and want the challenge of the rigorous curriculum this program provides. The success of the program is reflected in the fact that 90 percent of the class earns their associate's degree at the same time they are earning their high school diploma," said Dr. Jackson.
"In addition, the graduating class for the 2021-2022 school year earned more than $2 million in scholarships. We are very proud of our students, we are very proud to partner with CCCC on the early college and we look forward to seeing the program continue to thrive and grow."
Learn more about CSSE by visiting the website, www.chatham.k12.nc.us, or call the school at 919-663-5899. The school is located at 501 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Siler City.
Chatham School for Science and Engineering Principal Bobby Dixon has been with the school since its beginnings. Students attend their first two years at the Chatham Center for Innovation and their final years at the Central Carolina Community College Chatham Main Campus in Pittsboro.
This year's graduating class earned over $2.3 million in scholarships. One graduate - Dylan Hailey Philipps -- received the prestigious Park Scholarship from N.C. State University.