By: Nadia Payan
For P-TECH students, their last two years of high school are simultaneously their first two years of college. Though some of these students are as young as fifteen, they are fully integrated in classes and on campus three to five days a week.
P-TECH stands for “Pathways in Technology Early College High School.” The program is an early college high school where students get their high school diploma and associate degree at the same time in a four to six year sequence. It was established in 2014. Located on Jansen Avenue in Johnstown, the school building is where freshmen and sophomores spend their first two years and where juniors spend their days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
P-TECH juniors are at FM taking classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The seniors take classes on the campus five days a week.
“We think that the only way for students to get a real, true to life, honest college experience is to put them in the college. We can’t replicate that. So you put them in the true to real life experience with the real life teachers, with the real life consequence, the good, the bad, the ugly, but you go through it with support. We feel that way, you learn the skills that you would need to complete college, transfer to another college, or go into the workforce and transfer those skills,” Michael Dardaris, Principal and Chief Learning Officer at HFM P-TECH said.
Balancing high school and college work has its challenges. “It requires so much more focus and it requires you to honestly put your heart into it, and you need to be driven for this program. It’s definitely a lot more pressure and responsibility,” said Abigail Douglas, P-TECH junior from Fonda, New York. Douglas is hoping to be accepted into the Radiologic Technology program this January and graduate within the next three years.
P-TECH’s goal is college graduation and then employment at a mid-level skilled job. Some students will transfer to a four-year university after completion.
“We have 19 students that are definitely going to graduate college and high school in four years,” said Dardaris.
P-TECH students have been trained in skills such as collaboration, communication, and presentation that will be beneficial to their career pathways. They are also learning how to manage college life.
“It will give me a leg up because when we’re at an adolescent age, it’s a critical time in our development. It’s when a lot of our learning habits develop, so I think by going to college at this age, we’re getting those early development skills for [the] workplace which most adults don’t have,” Douglas noted. “Even at the end of the day if I come home and I’m really stressed out, I would never quit this school. It’s too good of a program to give up.”