St. Vrain Valley Schools first P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program launched at Skyline High School in 2016. Named FalconTECH, the program has evolved into an extraordinary success story that continues to provide students with the tools and skills they need to have a productive future in a complex, globalized, highly-competitive economy.
P-TECH is a model that allows students to earn their high school diploma, as well as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Computer Information Systems from Front Range Community College, at no cost to the student. This program includes internship and mentorship opportunities with IBM, giving students a head start in their career after successfully completing the program. Students enroll in the ninth grade and complete the program in four to six years.
To date, there have been three FalconTECH cohorts that have matriculated through this robust opportunity for students at Skyline High. “FalconTECH is an amazing program and opportunity to have,” shared Jovanni Ramirez, a FalconTECH and Class of 2020 graduate. “The experiences you gain at such an early stage in your teenage life give you a head start to your future career and the real world.”
As the first ever P-TECH cohort in the St. Vrain Valley Schools, FalconTECH began with an enrollment of 50 students. “It was very important for the teachers and staff at Skyline to provide solid support systems for our students – such as career exploration, after school study sessions, and in-school guided study class,” shared Louise March, P-TECH Coordinator. “These guided study classes continue to be an essential part for students enrolled in the P-TECH programs, as they enable students to stay on top of their high school and college studies, and to learn the 21st century skills they need for any work environment.”
To date, there are over 235 FalconTECH students enrolled in grades 9 through 14 while they are dual enrolled with Front Range Community College working towards earning their Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science.
In order for students to successfully complete the program, they must finish their high school requirements in four years, then complete their associate of applied science degree. Completing the FalconTECH requirements means students must pass all 19 college classes with a C or higher, as well as complete a six week internship with IBM. From the first graduating classes, there have been 76 FalconTECH graduates who have earned their AAS from Front Range Community College anywhere between four to six years. Over 43 of these graduates are attending four-year colleges or universities to earn their bachelor’s degree.
Currently, there are over 29 students that are employed by IBM in different capacities, 17 students are attending a four-year university, and are able to work part-time at IBM on certain assignments while they are enrolled in college. Additionally, two previous FalconTECH students are working in cybersecurity as full-time permanent employees for IBM, two continue to work as full-time interns for IBM, eight are full-time Externs for IBM’s Bridge Program from FalconTECH, and four other previous FalconTECH students have been hired by BeeXact, a local company.
“The important component to a successful P-TECH program is having all three entities commit to the students and families,” stated March. “Schools need a community college, a high school, and an industry partner that are dedicated to the outcome of each individual student.” For the past seven years, IBM has been an integral part of the success of FalconTECH by providing over 175 internship opportunities for students to date.
For students like Jovanni Ramirez, a FalconTECH alumni, being part of FalconTECH and successfully completing the program seemed daunting. Ramirez was initially hesitant to apply for the program, but with the support of his grandmother, he successfully completed FalconTECH in four years with his high school diploma and Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science from Front Range Community College. Upon graduation, he was hired by IBM as a Marketer Specialist for two years as an apprentice. Ramirez now works as a Junior Permitting Utilities Specialist at BeeXact, a local mobile mapping high tech solutions company.
FalconTECH has positively impacted Skyline High students by having a 100% graduation rate since it launched in 2016. Currently, about 70% of students that are enrolled in FalconTECH are first generation college students. Success stories like Ramirez’s are just one of the many that show how effective FalconTECH is for student achievement.
“FalconTECH helped open so many doors for me,” shared Ramirez. “I truly believe that without this program, I would not be where I am today.”