High school graduation is considered one of life’s great achievements, but for 33 members of the Skyline High School Class of 2020, this milestone means more than just receiving a high school diploma. These students make up the first graduating cohort class of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program, not only in St. Vrain Valley Schools, but in the entire State of Colorado.
P-TECH is a partnership between K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry that brings together rigorous and hands-on elements of high school, college, and the professional world all in one. At Skyline, students enroll in ninth grade and complete the program in four to six years. While enrolled in the program, they receive dual credit from St. Vrain Valley Schools and Front Range Community College, and work towards earning their Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Information Systems.
Of the 33 P-TECH students graduating from Skyline this May, 15 will also earn their associate degree – 13 of whom are first generation college graduates. Seven other students will work to complete their associate degree by the end of the summer, while the remaining students complete their degree within the next one to two years. Skyline’s Falcon Tech as a whole is composed of 70 percent first generation college students.
Along with college courses, the P-TECH program includes significant internship and mentorship opportunities through IBM, providing students a head start on their career after completing the program. “My internship taught me to be more confident working in a professional environment, and to be part of a team to learn to collaborate, and to solve real problems,” shared Keyri Andrade, Falcon Tech senior. “From these experiences I learned so much about myself; I accomplished many things that I thought I was not capable of doing. With the support of mentors and teachers, I have gained invaluable skills which have helped me to be a more confident and successful student.”
Like all other St. Vrain Valley School students, P-TECH students must complete 24.5 high school credits. In addition, students must complete 60 hours of college credit for the Associates of Applied Science degree from Front Range Community College in one of the following pathways – Computer Information Systems, Programming or Web Development. All Falcon Tech students must also complete a paid internship with IBM.
“We learned how to create a scope and sequence that includes high school courses and college courses at the same time that students can be successful in, and this has evolved over the course of the last 4 years,” shared Heidi Ringer, principal of Skyline High School. “We also learned that students who take multiple college courses in high school need a lot of support, so with this first cohort, all of our support structures were created – both academically and social-emotional.”
Students enrolled in the Falcon Tech program at Skyline have a high level understanding and proficiency in the technical aspects of Computer Information Systems as well as meeting industry standards for the workplace learning skills – skills such as collaboration, communication, analytical thinking, time management, motivation, leadership, responsibility and curiosity, and every student must demonstrate proficiency in each area.
These students are the “Trailblazers,” the first to go through this new, innovative, and rigorous program. Skyline’s Falcon Tech program pioneered this model in St. Vrain Valley Schools and paved the way for other P-TECH programs across the district. The 2019-2020 school year became Frederick High School’s inaugural year of their P-TECH program with the focus on biochemistry from Aims Community College.
“These students have taught us all what it means to truly have grit, to persevere no matter the difficulties, and to never give up,” stated Ringer. “This first graduating class of P-TECH students is the epitome of fortitude, resilience and strength.”
The legacy of these students shows an entire community that when all students are given the appropriate support, they can succeed, and set themselves up for an incredible successful future. Congratulations to the Class of 2020!