Carter Loyd already enjoys the educational benefits – both present and future – of taking classes last school year and this year at the Summit Technology Academy/Missouri Innovation Campus.

Now, the Lee's Summit North High School senior gets to enjoy the new setting for some of those classes.

He and hundreds of other students from the Lee's Summit District and several other surrounding school districts began classes in August at the new Summit Tech/MIC building at the corner of Ward Parkway and Tudor Road. On Tuesday, school officials, community leaders, hundreds of community members and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens gathered for a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Awesome day for our state,” said new Lee's Summit Superintendent Dennis Carpenter, who saved his last thank-you for the students who have been attending Summit Tech, forgoing a traditional high school setting and many times still participating in extracurricular activities. “It takes an incredibly dedicated student to be successful at a school the likes of which you're about to see.”

Compared to the previous campus across Ward Parkway, which had been a leased and converted warehouse space, Loyd said the new campus is a lot more open, allowing students to work together more.

“It's all about collaboration,” Loyd said. “We don't have desks, tables with chairs. It's nice to be able to work with classmates easily.”

Summit Tech began in 1999 as a place for STEM-based courses in the district and morphed into a place for many dual-credit offerings not only for Lee's Summit but also 11 other surrounding districts. The University of Central Missouri joined in 2012, starting the Missouri Innovation Campus setup, and Metro Community College now has signed on, allowing hundreds of high school students to get a jumpstart on college coursework as well as job prospects. Dozens of area businesses also are on board with internships and job training.

Groundbreaking for the new campus took place in March 2016. Lee's Summit Schools footed 40 percent of the $40 million cost for the 140,000-square-foot facility, thanks to a voter-approved bond issue, and UCM paid 60 percent.

“Those are essential collaborations,” Bob White, Summit Tech's first principal and now president of the Lee's Summit Board of Education, said of UCM and MCC.

The combination of less time in college, less money spent on college and closing a job skills gap is something many people believe is worth celebrating.

“It is a teaching and learning facility that exists like no other,” said UCM President Charles Ambrose, who also singled out the successful high school juggling act from the first students involved when the MIC began in 2012.

“Each of you have not disappointed us,” he said. “You had all the balls in the air at the same time.”

Greitens recalled a piece of advice from his former boxing coach, who implored that if one wanted a different result they had to act differently. The unique, multi-faceted collaboration of Summit Tech/MIC is a great example, he said.

“Everybody came together to do different,” Greitens said. “That is a tremendous success. We're proud to invest in that success. What's also great about the Missouri Innovation Campus is people are having fun.”

Loyd said that before his junior year, he simply knew he enjoyed working with computers. Summit Tech/MIC opened up plenty of possibilities for him, and he's taken courses in computer programming and introduction to cyber security, as well as interning with IT department of Saint Luke's Health System and meeting new friends along the way. When he goes to UCM next fall to study cyber security, he'll be a college junior.

“It drew me into that path and showed me all there was with it,” Lloyd said. “It really accelerates your learning.”