Serving the High Plains

Dual enrollment students complete first semester

Fourteen high-school dual enrollment students from northeastern New Mexico recently completed their first semester in Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College.

Their training included climbing the 1.5-megawatt wind turbine adjacent to the college's North American Wind Research and Training Center. The initiative is part of the Northeast New Mexico College and Career Consortium.

Last year, the state Legislature approved $103,000 to the High Plains Regional Education Cooperative to develop and operate a college and career readiness consortium for middle and high school students in northeastern New Mexico.

The eight public schools in the consortium are Cimarron, Clayton, Des Moines, Maxwell, Mosquero, Raton, Roy and Springer.

Jack Forrester, director of the consortium, said it allows the schools to share resources.

"There are so many job opportunities for these young people in wind energy, and we just thought it would be a great starting point for this program," Forrester said.

Forrester said the students would require 17 credit hours to earn an occupational certificate in Wind Energy Technology. The credit hours include online courses and "hands-on" courses such as wind turbine climbing and safety courses at Mesalands. The program covers turbine maintenance and monitoring, communications technology, safety, motors, generators and mechanical systems.

Aaron Sakelaris, 17, a dual enrollment student from Des Moines Municipal Schools, loved his first experience climbing the turbine at Mesalands.

"It was awesome! Its mind-blowing the size of everything from up there and everything that goes into it. You feel like you're on top of the world," Sakelaris said.

Sakelaris said he is thinking about attending Mesalands after he graduates to pursue an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Wind Energy Technology.

Andy Swapp, a member of the Wind Energy Technology faculty at Mesalands, said he enjoys working with the young students.

"I believe for students who are taking an introductory wind course, it's important for them to get to come to the campus, climb the wind turbine and see exactly what they are reading about in their dual credit courses," Swapp said.

Next semester, the cooperative plans to offer construction, health science and welding courses to other dual enrollment students.

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