Saturday was the start of a new adventure for Central Coast New Tech High School’s inaugural graduating class — a class that not only pioneered the Nipomo school’s project-based learning approach, but one that literally built the campus you see today.
The small school’s faculty and staff, as well as family and friends, celebrated the achievements of 75 seniors at a commencement ceremony Saturday, marking the end of an era of change and transition for the still relatively new school.
“They are the pioneers,” Principal Dan Neff said of the “alpha class” before the ceremony. “They were the class to sign up for a progressive learning environment that hadn’t been done in the area before.”
When it opened in 2012, much of New Tech High was still incomplete. One hundred ninth-graders made up the entire student body, the quad was just an expanse of dirt and paving material, and the school only had teachers and classrooms for that one grade.
Students applied from across the county to attend the school because of its project-based learning objectives and new way of involving students in learning through technology and real-world problem-solving.
“This class had to adjust to changes and just roll with it because every year they walked into a fairly new school,” Neff said. “And they were good with that.”
The school has since added classrooms, teachers and staff each year as new crops of students came in.
During that time, this year’s graduating class also had the opportunity to physically build their school.
Neff said many of the students participated in the design of the campus and in some cases even laid the groundwork and did the planting for its outside gathering spaces.
“They have literally built their campus,” he said. “They are the ones to establish the school traditions and community that now are going to be a part of the school for years to come.”
The class is also notable academically, Neff said.
Eight of the graduating students had a grade-point average of 4.0 or higher — something that was difficult considering the school only offers one weighted class. Additionally, all those students completed college courses, he said.
Blaine Francis is valedictorian, and Austin Simpson is salutatorian.
Also, almost 70 percent of the students completed the A-G college prep coursework requirements to be eligible to apply to a California State University or University of California college. Thirty-one percent of the graduating students are going to four-year universities, 64 percent are going to community colleges or trade schools and 3 percent are going into the military.