Locke and Kiss are among the lucky 110 students to participate in the BTECH program, which debuted in New York City in 2014. When they graduate from this unique six-year early college high school program, they’ll earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computer information systems or internet technology.
The initiative is the result of a public/private partnership between SAP, the New York City Department of Education, Queensborough Community College and the Early College Initiative at the City University of New York. Based on feedback from students and administrators shared at SAPPHIRE NOW, the program is exceeding expectations.
Solving real-world business problems
Kiss is interested in art, writing and sports, and aspires to be a CEO. She appreciates the value of gaining both business and technology skills, particularly around teamwork. “I’m experimenting with what it’s like to have a company and what you have to pay attention to. Being in business class allows me to see how collaboration plays a significant role in business.”
Locke’s favorite subjects are math and physics but he also enjoys gaming, music and hanging out with friends. Interested in a banking career, he discovered time management is one of his strengths when he participated in a business development course. His team created a customized sweatshirt business.
“Seeing who was good at what part of the job helped us find our skill sets,” he said. “I found out making sure the group was doing everything on a timeline was one of my strengths. I also think it’s helping us learn how to solve real-life problems, preparing us for the business world.”
Kiss, who is on a student team developing a retail clothing operation, is excited about applying her art and fashion interests. “We decided to manufacture the clothing ourselves out of organic materials to avoid child labor and offer a quality product. I love every aspect of this school because it gives me a chance to explore what it’s like in the business world, collaborating and coming up with creative ideas.”
Strong sense of community
While both students appreciate the fast track to an associate’s degree, they are equally enthusiastic about the strong sense of community BTECH provides, made possible partly by its relatively small size. The average class size is 22 students.
“Most schools lack a sense of community,” said Kiss. “This school pushes us to do better in ways that you wouldn’t normally find in most other high schools, to find out what our passions are and what we’re good at. It’s small, making it easy for teachers to connect with the students.”
Student-led school culture
According to Ashley Legitime, Academic Student Support Program Manager at BTECH partner Queensborough Community College, student ownership is core to the school’s culture. “From the first day of orientation, students took the lead in serving as tour guides and introducing speakers. They had an active role in creating the school mascot and song. “
Putting students in a leadership position is a deliberate part of the curriculum, along with project-oriented assignments. “The leadership mentality is part of our culture, a reflection of what it takes to succeed in the business and technology world,” said Legitime. “We encourage project-based learning, and foster a social environment that rewards students for taking the initiative and building their social skills.”
Although students are supported continuously via quarterly report cards, interim progress reports and online activities, Legitime emphasized the student-led, collaborative nature of the learning process.
“There are never any surprises,” she said. “At conferences, the students prepare portfolios and talk through their grades with their parents and teachers. They help develop a plan with goals to make improvements where needed.”
Building career paths
The students are amazed at how much they’ve learned in just nine short months.
“Before coming to BTECH, I felt scattered. I had an interest in art but no plan,” said Martina. “This school has put us in a position where we can start to think about our future, and how we can contribute to the community. It helped me find myself and discover what I really want to do.”
Bryant also thinks the program is helping him realize his career path and what he can achieve. “Back in middle school, I always worked alone. But throughout this year, I’ve learned how to work with others to be more efficient. I’ve realized that you can accomplish more when you work with others.”
Job-seekers of all ages would do well to heed Bryant’s advice. “Be resilient. Never get discouraged if someone tells you that you can’t do it. Try it. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t do it,” he said.
Expansion increases learning opportunities in Boston
BTECH is expanding this fall to Boston, Massachusetts with a new program now open for enrollment at Charlestown High School called C-Town Tech, also in partnership with SAP. Students will receive the same college-level experience and credits as the New York-based program, as well as mentoring and internships at SAP.
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