P-TECH Schools Packing the “New Collar Jobs” Pipeline
Recently, 50 female scholars from the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) in Connecticut; Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, New York; and Brooklyn P-TECH participated in the first-ever IBM Women in STEM Panel at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. The event brought together some of IBM’s most talented female engineers to engage and inspire these young female scholars. Representing grades 9 through 11, the girls got a chance to learn first-hand about the advantages and challenges of being women in STEM.
The presence of women in STEM careers has been declining, but with young women comprising 41 percent of the student body at NECA, and 46 percent of the students at Excelsior, that statistic is about to change. In addition to the high representation of girls, 85 percent of NECA scholars also are students of color. Taken together, these statistics signal a demographic shift in STEM fields. And with 95 percent of 21st century jobs incorporating some form of IT – and 99 percent of jobs created after the recession requiring postsecondary training – the future has never been brighter for girls and young women enrolled in P-TECH schools.
Below are quick profiles of four of the young female scholars who attended the IBM Women in STEM Panel.
A junior at NECA, Angel Reyes, 16, is on track to finish her “six-year” program (earning her high school diploma along with an associate degree in technology) one year early, with high honors, in 2018. Angel has blossomed at NECA, and has taken advantage of many new opportunities inside and outside of the classroom – including public speaking events that have helped her build self-confidence. Academically, Angel has continually tested and stretched her capabilities. She looks forward to securing a paid internship with IBM and tackling new challenges. Angel belongs to the National Honor Society, competes on the swimming team, and contributes to her community through Homes for Hope. After NECA, Angel plans to pursue studies in software engineering to explore the intersection of technology and medicine.
NECA junior Carol Cabrera, 16, is on track to graduate with high honors after just four years. The first in her family to attend college, Carol wants to establish a legacy of success for her 10-year-old brother to follow. When she’s not studying, Carol is passionate about choir, swimming and diving. She is looking forward to securing a paid summer internship with IBM, and plans to study software engineering and pursue medical school after completing her NECA program.
At Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, New York, Carolina Vega, 16, is on track to complete her “six-year” program with high honors in just four years – earning both her high school diploma and an Associate in Applied Sciences degree in Cyber Security. Carolina entered Excelsior uncertain about her interests and abilities. But midway through her third year, she is excelling in calculus, and already has earned 25 college credits. Carolina will be the first in her immediate family to graduate college, and plans to study engineering after Excelsior.
Although she has loved math since the second grade, sophomore Jahneek Robin, 15, has taken her interests to a new level at NECA. Jahneek is on track to graduate with high honors in just four years, after which she plans to study biochemical engineering and computer science. The chance afforded her by NECA to accelerate the pace of her education has motivated Jahneek to take pre-calculus as a sophomore. And mastering the program’s fast pace and rigorous standards has given her a new sense of achievement and independence as she pursues her education and career.
As one of two female school leaders in the rapidly growing P-TECH consortium of schools, I am a voice of change for all students – especially my girls. The change that I am helping my students create is leading to greater diversity in the technology industry workforce. This increase in the number of female coders, programmers, analysts, and leaders will change the face of STEM in less than a decade!
Society and industry are ready for this change. And there is no limit to the ways in which these young women will transform the world for all of us.
Karen Amaker is the Founding Principal of the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) in Norwalk, Connecticut.
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