May 18, 2018 | Written by: Kevin Rothman
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Excelsior – the motto of New York State – means “ever upward,” and signifies New Yorkers’ desire to achieve. I can think of no better name for our P-TECH school within Newburgh Free Academy than “Excelsior Academy” – the school I lead, in partnership with IBM and the Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange). Excelsior Academy is a special place of promise and opportunity for Newburgh’s young people, and today marks the realization of that promise as 17 of our first graduates earn their college degrees.
Excelsior Academy’s 2018 Graduates (Darryl Bautista/Feature Photo Service for IBM)
These 17 students represent more than one-third of our first cohort, earning their high school diplomas and associate degrees two full years ahead of schedule. The fact that young people from some of our community’s most challenging family environments are succeeding academically with the promise of moving forward into growth-industry employment, four-year institutions or both is a testament to their drive and to the P-TECH model’s ability to recognize and focus it.
This is an amazing accomplishment for these students, and I am confident that the other students in the same cohort also will earn their associate degrees within the next two years of their schooling with us. “Early” is great. But we want college completion – and a pathway for greater achievements – for all.
Newburgh, once a prosperous Hudson River transportation hub and industrial city, is again on the rise after decades of hard times. But while the city’s future looks brighter than its recent past, the many societal problems that stem from high levels of unemployment affect the opportunities of many of the area’s youth.
Our student body is 85 percent Black and Hispanic, and more than 75 percent are free/reduced price lunch eligible. Many will be the first in their families to earn a postsecondary degree, and all will have the opportunity to move into a growing employment sector and well-paying careers. Excelsior – and the P-TECH model of which it is a proud part – not only helps make this happen, but does so without saddling our graduates with oppressive student loan debt.
Given this opportunity, it’s no surprise that our students (who entered Excelsior without any testing or grade requirements) have responded to our support with their best efforts.
- Our attendance rate is 94 percent
- Our retention rate is 95 percent
- Eighty-five percent of our 11thand 12th graders have passed full-credit college courses
- In their first year of college coursework eligibility, 83 percent of our 10th graders met college-ready benchmarks and are enrolled in full-credit college courses
- Twenty-sevenstudents have completed paid IT internships with IBM or St. Luke’s Hospital
- This summer, more than 25additional Excelsior students will complete paid internships with IBM, St. Luke’s and other local companies
As the first program of its kind in this region, the Newburgh Enlarged City School District’s Excelsior Academy public-private partnership signals a breakthrough in the reinvention of education and its connection to jobs. I am thankful to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who launched New York State P-TECH with the first 16 school in 2014, and has continued to support the model with 39 additional P-TECH schools now underway or being planned.
Our graduates will return to their community with no-cost associate degrees in the dynamic fields of cybersecurity or computer networking. Equipped with their academic credentials and paid workplace experience, these young men and women will help usher in the next era of productivity and prosperity for Newburgh and for New York State.
Kevin Rothman is the House Principal of Newburgh Free Academy’s Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, New York.
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