Achieve an Excellent Education in Casper, WY
The high schools, colleges and universities in Casper play a key role in workforce development while engaging the community through sports, arts and more.
Casper’s higher education institutions play a vital role in both the city’s workforce development efforts and quality of life. And the Natrona County School District is also playing a key role in preparing students for college and for in-demand careers.
As one of the largest community colleges in the state, Casper College offers a diverse menu of degree and certificate programs for traditional and nontraditional students, and the college’s arts and cultural offerings as well as athletic programming keep the community engaged, forging a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources.
“Casper is very much a college community. The community supports this college to an amazing degree, and we try to return the favor,” says Darren Divine, Casper College president. “We’ve just opened a new visual arts building. We have a state-of-the-art music building. We’re certainly involved in workforce and economic development.”
The college offers nearly 100 certificate and degree programs ranging from health care to welding, journalism to web design. Divine says partnerships between the college and the business community ensure the fields of study align with current industry needs.
“We have members from our industries who advise the dean, program directors and department chairs about the current needs in their areas. All our programs also have strong ties to the community, and our instructors and counselors are always talking to our employers to help connect them to our students,” Divine says.
Casper College’s contributions to the community extend beyond workforce development. The college continues to expand its athletics programs, with both its men’s and women’s soccer teams celebrating winning seasons in 2022. For the second year in a row, the Casper College Lady T-Birds basketball team finished in the top 20 of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
In addition to athletics, Divine says the college supports and amplifies the city’s arts and cultural scene.
“Casper is arguably one of the art centers in Wyoming, and Casper College plays a big part in that,” Divine says. “We have a brand-new visual arts building, a fairly new music building and a theater as well.”
“All of our programs are also open to the public, so for instance, our choirs and bands are all open to the public not only for concerts but to perform in as well,” Divine adds. “We also have strong enrollment in our community education classes as well as our for-credit art classes.”
Priming the Talent Pipeline
As part of the University of Wyoming system, UW Casper also plays a major role in the region’s workforce development efforts. With more than a dozen bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in career fields that include education, counseling, social work, biology and criminal justice, UW Casper is a chief supplier of local talent.
“UW Casper has been graduating 50 to 80 people each year, and most of them remain within the county,” says Brent Pickett, dean of the University of Wyoming Casper. “You can’t walk into an elementary school in our entire county without coming across UW Casper alumni. You can’t go to a social services agency that hires and employs social workers and counselors without coming across UW Casper alumni as well.”
The university collaborates with Casper College to offer students looking to earn a four-year degree a seamless educational experience between the two institutions.
“For example, in our Medical Operatory Sciences program, we have our faculty teach some of the courses at Casper College, and some of their faculty teach some of our courses,” Pickett says. “It’s a seamless connection. From the time [Casper College] students are freshmen, they are counseled about the option of a four-year degree at UW Casper, so the advising process is seamless.”
Pickett says the relationship between the university and the community is a symbiotic one, with part of the school’s mission being to “contribute to the cultural life of the community.”
“For years, UW Casper has hosted speakers and events and opened those events to the public. We have brought people in to talk about everything from enhanced oil recovery to literature and the arts,” he says. “We have long sought to be a partner in contributing to the overall cultural dialogue within the community.”
Natrona Schools Offer Pathways to Innovation
A cornerstone of the Casper region’s economic success is the availability of a well-trained workforce. At the heart of those workforce development efforts is the Natrona County School District, which works to ensure graduates are fully prepared for college and local, in-demand jobs through innovative career and technical education programs.
An extension of the Natrona County’s high school district, the Pathways Innovation Center (PIC), offers 11th and 12th graders a preparatory curriculum, industry certifications, portfolio development as well as internships and other work-based opportunities.
The 126,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art educational facility – which also houses Roosevelt High School – sits on a 38-acre campus and is equipped with innovation labs, the latest technology and industrial equipment to make sure students are learning the skills businesses need. The school even boasts a broadcast studio and cafe, which students run.
Pathways Innovation Center
The centerpiece of the facility is Fabrication Hall, a 5,000-square-foot, two-story common space fashioned after commercial facilities, such as Boeing, which allow creative and technical teams to collaborate.
“Today’s students need far more than traditional reading, writing and arithmetic lessons. At NCSD, we strive to provide all students with optimum learning opportunities and the tools, skills and knowledge they will need to be successful in the 21st century,” says Michael Jennings, superintendent of the Natrona County School District.
Programs such as Pathways Innovation Center, Dual Language Immersion, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, Hathaway Curriculum and Scholarship as well as extensive extracurricular activities and organizations provide all students with opportunities to excel and succeed, Jennings says.
Career exploration is at the heart of the PIC curriculum. Students take advanced-level courses in areas, such as agriculture, automotive, communication, design, hospitality, manufacturing, welding and health sciences and gain hands-on experience in the classroom and through work-based learning. By graduation, most students have earned the required certifications that allow them to go straight to the workforce.
“Throughout the entire district, students attain real-world applications focused on industry standards and college or career readiness. Students are provided opportunities for career exploration, portfolio preparation, graduation planning and more,” Jennings says. “We are committed to providing the best possible education experience for all students while preparing them for their chosen path after graduation.”
Q&A With the Superintendent
As Natrona County’s only public school district, Natrona County Schools serves the educational needs of about 12,800 students in preschool through 12th grade in Casper, as well as the surrounding communities of Alcova, Bar Nunn, Edgerton, Evansville, Mills, Midwest and Powder River.
Superintendent Michael Jennings details how local public schools prepare students for in-demand jobs.
How does Natrona County Schools contribute to workforce development efforts?
Our dedicated and professional employees in the Natrona County School District work diligently each day to provide exceptional learning environments for all students. As a district, we believe it is important to set strategic goals to focus our actions for continued educational excellence in Natrona County.
High Expectations, Leading in Literacy, Planning with Purpose, Safe & Healthy Environments and Effective and Efficient Operations are at the forefront of our district’s strategic goals and serve as the foundation for our work and comprehensive strategic plan.
What role does the school district play in the region’s economic success?
As the largest employer in Natrona County, we play a vital role in the community. We offer jobs to nearly 3,000 people in the county, providing competitive salaries and benefits, as well as continuous learning opportunities for our staff and faculty.
Every member of our team demonstrates a commitment to creating a safe, healthy and exceptional learning environment for students and staff.
Get to Know Casper
Want to learn more about living and working in Casper, WY? Check out the latest edition of Livability Casper, Wyoming.