Biology teacher Britainy Dearman introduces her students to some of the topics and tools that they will use this semester.


While the first year of high school is an exciting time for most students, setting foot on a college campus for the first time can be intimidating for some.

New students at the Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership (CCTL) had access to plenty of resources on Monday as the 2023-2024 school year began. One of the traditions at the early college is that members of the school’s junior class act as mentors for freshman and transfer students, Principal Teri Hutchens explained. 

The mentors take that responsibility seriously.

“I walked my mentee to class and thought about things that might be helpful for her to know or maybe things that I wished someone had showed me,” junior Abby Freeland said. “It helps the freshman know the school better, but they get to meet new people and begin to make friends.”

Junior Jay Henderson, 16, said she remember what Day 1 was like when she was a freshman.

“I was a little nervous. I thought I’d get lost. I had high expectations for myself, but thought I would be a loner,” Henderson recalled.

She learned that having small classes make friendships easier, and that her classmates quickly became “like a family.”

Henderson said it was important to make her mentee feel at ease. She also shared pointers on how to make a smooth transition from middle to high school.

She believes that one of the reasons CCTL’s mentoring program is so successful is because freshmen hear advice from students who were their position just a couple years ago.

Dana Gibson is a new teacher at CCTL.

In addition to the new freshmen class, CCTL also welcomed teacher Dana Gibson, who is teaching Adobe classes, this year. She has a graphic design, business marketing, digital media and teaching background along with some other specialties.

“Teaching graphic design is my favorite part of teaching. This is a dream job and I’m excited to be a part of great school,” Gibson said.

Meanwhile, in Biology Honors, teacher Britainy Dearman was introducing her students to some of the topics and tools that they will use this semester.

“I enjoy the first day of school. I like seeing the students talk with one another, and I like to see the sparks of curiosity as I introduce them to the course,” Dearman said.

Sophomore Amanda Chipman, 15, said that early college program has exposed her to a college environment, while instilling confidence that she can achieve her education goals.

“I decided to come here because I want to be in the Secret Service. I wanted to get a head start and it’s been the best option,” Chipman said.

CCTL is an amazing school, she said, and the teachers are helpful.

Miguel Pena, a senior, is more than halfway through to earning his associate degree. Earning college credits for free is a great opportunity, he said.

“This school has taught me to use all the resources I have available to me. Learn how to use the environment in my favor. The teachers here don’t want you to just make good grades, they want you to be successful. Successful in school, but successful in balancing out school and life,” he explained.

Senior Josh Davidson, 18, said it’s great to be back on campus and was enjoying reconnecting with friends Monday around lunchtime. However, he said he dreads the homework — which he knows always looms around the corner.