Students in the Early College High School Advanced Manufacturing program demonstrated their maturity, confidence and know-how during a visit by the Under Secretary at the US Department of Education.
Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, director of the US Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), along with Dr. Sharon Lee-Miller, director of the US Division of Academic and Technical Education, praised the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES’ program that trains and certifies high school students to fulfill high-tech jobs.
“You should be commended for work you have achieved,” said Dr. Dann-Messier on the campus of SUNY Adirondack, where the program is taught by Gage Simpson. “We want to be partners with you to support the continuation of these goods works, giving students the opportunity to explore non-traditional pathways, giving them a hands-on, authentic learning experiences that will lead to careers and post-secondary learning.”
At two roundtables, Dr. Dann-Messier and Dr. Lee Miller spoke with students as well as parents, instructors, members of New York State Education Department and business partners to get a better sense of the factors that makes the program function so well.
She said she and President Barack Obama are deeply interested in career and technical education and want to help in anyway they can; as well as share the Early College High School success with other fledgling programs. With that in mind, Dr. Dann-Messier asked all involved how the government can support BOCES in order to expand the program to more and younger students.
“I am here to listen, take copious notes and bring back your comments to the President,” said Dr. Dann-Messier.
At the end of the afternoon event, she promised to ask the President to speak at the students’ completion ceremony in June 2015.
In its first year, the Early College High School was considered a pilot project. Parents admitted they were reluctant to have their teens to participate as most preferred to see their students take the traditional route of high school and four-year college.
However, every parent said they were thrilled their teens insisted on being a part of the program. They said they have never seen their children so engaged and enthusiastic about school. One student from Hudson Falls, said she was actually failing some of her courses in high school. Now she is thriving.
“I used to be shy and quiet,” she said. “Now I’m here speaking to all of you."
The 18 students enrolled in the program have the chance to earn 28 tuition-free college credits (helping them to graduate one-year earlier than their peers) and four industry certifications. Throughout, they are learning and working on state-of-the-art equipment.
After listening to students discuss their successes and failures in building a battery, a small village as well as a new project to design a cooling system for a MRI for Philips Health, students were undaunted and happy to try again. Business partners were awed and felt these students have what it took to be leaders in their field.
“If I had the opportunity, I would hire them all now,” said Corbin Daugherty, director of Human Resources at ACE Hardware. “They have what it takes to solve problems and the interpersonal skills. They are confident and have what it takes to get in the door of any company now.”
Dr. Lee-Miller, a native of Schenectady, said she was thrilled a quality program such as the Early College High School is prospering in what she still considers her “backyard.”
“These students are remarkable,” she said. “I’m excited and enthusiastic to follow their progress.”
One of the keys to success is flexibility. Next year, the then seniors can choose to spend their entire day at SUNY Adirondack, rather than split their day between their high school and college.
All day or half, Dr. Dann-Messier encouraged all involved to become ambassadors for career and technical education, as the stigma of BOCES’ training needs to be eliminated.
“We want to be partners with you and we want to support you. But we also want you to go out and talk to family, friends, and other parents,” said Dr. Dann-Messier. “This is a fantastic program and we hope to see it grow.”
Check out the media attention the ECHS program received: