Economic Development

IBM P-TECH: Redefining Possibilities for a New Generation

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Last June, we were proud to welcome our first six early P-TECH graduates to the ranks of educated men and women prepared for success in both the workplace and in higher education. Today, we are proud to announce that 32 more have joined their ranks – bringing to 38 the number of P-TECH scholars who will have earned their high school diplomas and associate degrees one to two years ahead of schedule. But young people graduate every spring, so what makes the P-TECH program and its graduates so unique? Why did President Obama choose to speak at our school? And why are six U.S. states, Australia and 250 corporate partners replicating the P-TECH model?

Clockwise, from Left: Alyssa Sandy, Amanda Crawford, ShuDon Brown, Elisabel Herrera. (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Clockwise, from Left: Alyssa Sandy, Amanda Crawford, ShuDon Brown, Elisabel Herrera. (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Among the answers is that P-TECH is redefining possibilities for underserved youth, and creating a new generation of young leaders. Young people from P-TECH are exploding tired notions of what those from their communities can achieve. Shown a clear pathway to success, and mentored by caring professionals, P-TECH students are not merely exceeding expectations, they are re-writing them as they re-shape the narratives of their lives.

Much has been written about why America needs P-TECH, and those challenges persist:

  • Only 37 percent of U.S. high school seniors are ready for college-level work in reading and math.
  • Only 20 percent of community college students complete their “two-year” program by their third year.
  • Only 6 percent of college graduates from low-income, non-white families earn degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.
  • Meanwhile, only 10 percent of 24-year olds from low-income families hold college degrees at all.

This is a national tragedy in light of rapidly expanding opportunities for those with the right postsecondary degrees and training. But we refuse to accept the unfortunate past as the future definition for our young people. P-TECH’s extraordinary graduates are demonstrating that motivation and opportunity can transform “potential” into success.

Below are brief profiles of our most recent graduating class:

ShuDon Brown (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

ShuDon Brown (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

ShuDon Brown, 16, graduated college with honors, and will pursue a four-year degree in business administration at William Peace University. ShuDon’s paid summer internship at IBM Research sparked her passion for coding – a skill she plans to use to build a website for the daycare center her mother plans to launch.

Amanda Crawford (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Amanda Crawford (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Amanda Crawford, 17, will pursue a four-year degree at The University of Alabama on a full athletic scholarship. A champion track & field runner with Olympic aspirations, Amanda began competing for the first time while at P-TECH.

David Calliste (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

David Calliste (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

David Calliste, 18, is both a track & field athlete and a member of P-TECH’s robotics team. David developed his computer programming expertise as a member of the school’s student-led tech support group, and plans to continue in that field.

Joel Duran (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Joel Duran (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Joel Duran, 18, learned English after immigrating from the Dominican Republic. He plans to major in computer science at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany). Joel also served as a captain of P-TECH’s baseball team.

Elisabel Herrera (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Elisabel Herrera (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Elisabel Herrera, 19, learned web development during her paid internship with IBM Research. She plans to pursue a four-year degree after gaining work experience in sales & marketing, and eventually would like a technical career in the medical field.

Geoffrey Richard (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Geoffrey Richard (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Geoffrey Richard, 17, will pursue a four-year degree in computer science at The City University of New York (CUNY), and plans to become a network engineer. Geoffrey credits his paid IBM internship and his “hackathon” experience developing a video game with stoking his interest in technology.

Alyssa Sandy (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Alyssa Sandy (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Alyssa Sandy, 17, is headed to East Carolina University on a full athletic scholarship. P-TECH’s second Olympic aspirant is a champion hurdler who credits P-TECH’s blend of rigorous academics and activities with helping her develop her time management and critical thinking skills.

Mia Shibly (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Mia Shibly (Credit: Ari Fishkind for IBM)

Mia Shibly, 18, plans to major in fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Working with his IBM mentor, Mia developed his User Experience (UX) design skills through a part-time job with a startup where he helped design an app. His eventual goal is to run his own business.

So, why did the President visit? And why are urban, suburban and rural communities in vastly differing state locales and economies embracing the P-TECH model? The answer is found in industries such as IT, advanced manufacturing and health care, where the demand for skilled workers outpaces supply. The answer lies in the fact that a standard high school diploma just isn’t enough to prepare graduates for college and career. Finally, the answer
is our students and graduates and others like them who want nothing more than a chance
to succeed.

Rashid Ferrod Davis is the Founding Principal of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York.

Related Resources:

IBM P-TECH School Boosts Number of Early Graduates

VIDEO: School Models Project — P-TECH

STEM Education: Preparing Kids for Jobs Their Parents Don’t Understand

Why America Needs P-TECH to Succeed

Learn More About the P-TECH Model

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