Pro­gram of­fer­ing free de­gree, men­tor­ing to city stu­dents

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­sun.com

Dazh­nae Nixon has been tin­ker­ing with com­put­ers and cell­phones since she was 8 years old, tak­ing them apart and fix­ing them for friends and fam­ily.

This fall, the 15-year-old fresh­man at Carver-Vo­ca­tional Tech­ni­cal High School is among the first stu­dents in a new six-year pro­gram called Path­ways in Tech­nol­ogy Early Col­lege High School, or P-TECH. It prom­ises one-on-one men­tor­ing, paid in­tern­ships, a free as­so­ciate’s de­gree and the po­ten­tial for a job at a tech­nol­ogy com­pany.

“Tech­nol­ogy, that’s her thing; com­put­ers, that’s her thing; math, that’s her thing,” said An­di­tria Wil­liams, Dazh­nae’s mother. “I just think this pro­gram has so much to of­fer her and can take her to that next level. I want her to get out there and ex­pe­ri­ence life and go af­ter her goals. I’m push­ing her be­cause she loves school so much.”

Of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Gov. Larry Ho­gan, whose team helped bring P-TECH to Mary­land, and city schools CEO Sonja San­telises cel­e­brated the start of the pro­gram Thurs­day.

P-TECH be­gan at Carver and Dun­bar high schools in Bal­ti­more this year, and will ex­pand next year to four more schools: two in Prince Ge­orge’s County and one each in Western Mary­land and on the Eastern Shore.

Ho­gan said the idea was brought to him by for­mer state Del. Keif­fer J. Mitchell Jr., who is now on Ho­gan’s staff.

“I was fas­ci­nated when I first heard about it,” Ho­gan said. “I lis­tened to sto­ries of kids in New York and how it trans­formed their lives, and I said, ‘ We have to bring this pro­gram to Mary­land.’ ”

Stu­dents spend six years in a high school and col­lege cur­ricu­lum. They are men­tored by pro­fes­sion­als in science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics. They have op­por­tu­ni­ties for paid sum­mer in­tern­ships with com­pa­nies in the field. When they grad­u­ate, they re­ceive a high school di­ploma and an as­so­ciate’s de­gree.

The spon­sors at Dun­bar are the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more, and Kaiser Per­ma­nente. IBM is the part­ner at Carver.

IBM de­vel­oped the first P-TECH school in New York in 2011. Schools in six states, in­clud­ing New York, Illi­nois and Con­necti­cut, have adopted the model.

Some of the early grad­u­ates have gone to work for IBM, said Grace Suh, who di­rects ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams for the com­pany.

When Jen­nifer Thorpe heard about the pro­gram — and the small num­ber of stu­dents who would be ad­mit­ted — she “started pray­ing.”

Her son, Regi­nald Thorpe-Martin, had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in science at a young age, even per­suad­ing her to buy a tele­scope to watch the stars. Now he’s in the P-TECH pro­gram at Carver.

Thorpe said they come from a dis­tressed neigh­bor­hood in East Bal­ti­more, and she wants her son to be an in­spi­ra­tion for other chil­dren.

“I need him to not just do this for him, but to do this for the other kids whoare stand­ing back watch­ing,” she said. “Be­cause, who knows, if they see that he’s from the same com­mu­nity and he’s do­ing it, ‘why can’t I?’ ”

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Regi­nald Thorpe-Martin, a fresh­man at Carver Vo­ca­tional-Tech­ni­cal High School, with his mother, Jen­nifer Thorpe, dis­cusses the launch­ing of the Path­ways in Tech­nol­ogy Pro­gram.

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