May 18, 2018 | Written by: Karen Amaker
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After just four years, Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) is proud to honor the first graduates of our “six-year” P-TECH program. Our partnership with Norwalk Community College and IBM enable us to provide rigorous high school and college coursework leading to a no-cost associate degree in software engineering, web development or mobile programming, and the type of paid workplace experience that prepares graduates for the “real world.” The substance and job-market relevance of the P-TECH program has engaged and encouraged nearly 20 percent of the scholars from our inaugural class to earn their high school diplomas and “two-year” associate degrees a full two years ahead of schedule!
Principal Amaker with NECA’s 2018 graduates
As a “school within a school” at Norwalk High School, NECA reaches a diverse group of young people interested in STEM careers or further STEM study. In addition to a significant representation of Black (27 percent) and Hispanic (46 percent) scholars, 42 percent of our scholars are female. This is a significant and important departure from data that shows that far too many young women are not pursuing study in math and science. NECA is doing its part to improve the representation of women in the technology industry with an innovative education model that leads to exciting, fulfilling and well-paying careers for all.
Through P-TECH, we’re seeing that cultural, gender and socio-economic diversity (45 percent of NECA scholars are eligible for free or reduced lunch) are not at odds with high academic achievement, and college and career readiness. We have a 96 percent attendance rate. Our scholars have attained a 91 percent pass rate for the full-credit college courses for which they are eligible beginning in 10th grade. Year after year, 50 percent of NECA scholars have earned honors (minimum 3.0 GPA or higher). And thus far, 32 percent of the scholars in our first cohort have completed paid internships with IBM and other companies.
And let’s talk about those internships. These weren’t low-level projects with zero impact on a scholar’s professional development. The internships at our corporate partner IBM were serious engagements through which our scholars contributed to such areas as digital business and healthcare, and analytics. One of this year’s graduates will join IBM as a Cloud Systems Analyst, while most of our other graduates are proceeding to four-year institutions such as Stevens Institute of Technology, Clarkson University, the University of Connecticut, American University, and Lehigh University.
These types of results characterize the effectiveness and job-market relevance of the P-TECH model which honors diversity and inclusion. NECA is off to a great start, and we can’t wait to see what happens with our next group of scholars!
Karen Amaker is the Principal of Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) in Norwalk, Connecticut.
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