Norwich — Three Rivers Community College named Brad Columbus, the assistant principal and history teacher at Quinebaug Middle College in Danielson for the past four years, as the first director of the new Three Rivers Middle College that will open for students Sept. 4.
Columbus, 31, of Waterford, spent six years at St. Thomas More School in Montville, where he taught social studies and coached varsity men's track, cross country and ice hockey. He has been the head coach of St. Bernard's cross country and track programs for the past two years.
"It's an exciting time here at Three Rivers," Columbus said. "Having an opportunity to work with the college to develop a program that will provide high school students with college course opportunities is going to be a boost for the region."
Columbus said in his experience at Quinebaug in Danielson he has seen students complete a year's worth of college credits during their high school years at the school. He said he came to Quinebaug Middle College midway through the first year and "had an opportunity to help build that school." He said that would give him valuable experience moving forward at Three Rivers.
Columbus started his position last week as the school was gearing up for opening day on Sept. 4 — a week later than originally planned — but said his salary is still being negotiated.
Three Rivers has partnered with the regional educational agency LEARN to launch the new magnet high school for juniors and seniors interested in studying engineering technology, business and finance and hospitality management.
Three Rivers President Grace Jones said the school has nearly reached its first-year capacity, with 29 students committed as of Wednesday afternoon. The school hopes to add 30 new juniors next year and expand enrollment.
"We're so excited about having Brad here," Jones said. "He has the experience with the middle college concept and the hands-on experience. We were very, very fortunate that he was interested in this position."
The middle college will receive $7,900 per student from the state Department of Education and $5,500 per student in tuition from the students' home school districts. Columbus said students enrolled so far come from throughout the region, including Lisbon, Norwich, Montville, Ledyard, North Stonington and Waterford.
Columbus said when he speaks to students Sept. 4 he will stress the opportunities they will have to get a jump on their college education during high school. Students will be able to take college-level courses and work in Three Rivers' high-tech laboratories while in high school.
"It's all about seizing the opportunity," Columbus said. "It's an amazing opportunity for students to get a head start on their college at no expense, which in today's day and age is expensive. ... And it pays off when you go to apply for schools. I've seen students get extensive college scholarships."