Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies provides high schoolers college credit and exposure to biotechnologies

Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies is the newest high school created to allow students the opportunity to work toward an associate degree in high school. They are billed as the "Home of the Mavericks," a nod to the innovative program that will help steer students toward the growing and vital life sciences field.

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This article was written for our sponsor, NCBiotech

A new innovative high school focused on biotechnologies offered through Wake Tech helps students earn associate degrees while earning their high school diplomas.

It’s all happening through North Carolina's Cooperative Innovative High Schools, which are public schools operating through cooperation between public school systems throughout North Carolina and community colleges. These high schools provide students access to career and technical education programs while earning dual-enrollment credit.

There are four schools in the area offering the program, including Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, North Wake College and Career Academy, Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, and the most recently opened, Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies.

After witnessing the success of this model and discovering a growing need for talent in biotechnology, Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies was opened and welcomed its first class of students in August, 2022.

Abby Stotsenberg, who is the principal of the new school, has been an educator and administrator with Wake County schools for 23 years. She previously served as the principal of Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.

"I knew I really wanted to lead this school," she said. "I'm very honored to be named the founding principal."

In its inaugural year, the school welcomed 9th and 10th grade students. Additional upperclassmen classes will be added in the coming years with current sophomores advancing to become the school’s first graduating class in 2025.

How the school works

Officially under the umbrella of the Wake County Public School System, the school acts in most regards like a typical high school. There are classes and opportunities for clubs and athletics. There is a marching band, prom, and graduation.

Because it is a public school, there is no cost to attend.

"They do not have to pay for books and they do not have to pay for lab fees," Stotsenberg said. "We take care of all of that. We will also pay for them to sit for certification exams."

The school’s main difference is that several of the classes receive dual-enrollment credit because they are officially college courses. Using the dual enrollment model, students can graduate from these programs with nearly two years worth of college credit, the equivalent of an associate degree.

While many classes, like history or foreign language can fall into the dual-enrollment category, the focus of this school is to introduce and educate students on biotechnology, information technology with computer programming, network management, and cybersecurity.

"Students at this school are taking a mixture of general education college classes that would transfer to a four-year institution, but most of their college courses are connected to one of those four career pathways," Stotsenberg said.

All of the classes are taught at an honors or AP level because the students are taking college classes.

Getting real-world experience

One benefit of the program is the real-world experience it offers students. Stotsenberg shared that the school’s business partners, including school sponsor, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, will put students through the hiring process to get them ready for the workforce.

"It provides them what it would be like in the real world to apply for a job," she said. "Oftentimes those business partners are so appreciative of these students, that they hire them for full-time [positions] when they graduate from high school. They [also] pay for the [students] to finish their degree at Wake Tech."

While the students are being placed in a rigorous environment, they also have plenty of support, Stotsenberg said.

"On any given day when I walk into a classroom, there's probably two people in there helping to support the students," she said. "So we are not going to let kids fall through the cracks. We can't get any bigger than 400 students [total, 9th - 12th] and that is wonderful."

All prospective students must complete an application, which opens on Oct. 15 and closes on Dec. 14. Students can apply to more than one Wake Early College high school at a time. As part of the application, candidates must write an essay and supply personal recommendations. The student’s recent grades and test scores are also evaluated.
This article was written for our sponsor, NCBiotech

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