LONGMONT, Colo. — The first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in the western United States launched in the St. Vrain Valley School District.  

The goal is to support the need for “new collar” workers with skills that focus on computer information systems and computer science. The P-TECH program was created as a partnership among Skyline High School, IBM, and Front Range Community College.

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“At St. Vrain, we really wanted to have a bridge of academic foundation work to authentic learning experiences for students,” said the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Innovation Patty Quiñones. “We have embedded industry certifications, we have concurrent enrollment classes and classes for students that are really interesting to think about for their careers in STEM.”

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Recently, the district won the Succeeds Prize for excellence in Technology-Enabled Learning. The award was created in collaboration with Colorado Succeeds, 9NEWS and mindSpark Learning.  Colorado Succeeds is a coalition of business leaders and educators whose mission is to improve schools and ensure they are teaching students in a way that helps supply the kinds of workers businesses will need in the future.

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“We’re really excited because it shines a light on public education and the accomplishments not only of our educators but our students and our community,” Quiñones said.

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“Over half of our students in P-TECH are first generation college students,” said Skyline High School principal Heidi Ringer. “So this really opens up a lot of doors and opportunities for them and for their families’ moving forward.”

According to Ringer, her students are able to earn an Associate’s degree in 4-6 years free of charge while they’re doing their high school courses. With the partnership, IBM provides mentors to students and a paid internship after their junior year if they qualify.  She said they’ll also be first in line for a job interview with the company after they graduate.

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“Our goal for all of our students is for them to be prepared for the real world so focusing on this and giving students that might never have thought that they would go into these careers was really important for us,” Ringer said.

“Learning about computer science is one of the major things we’re doing here,” added Skyline sophomore Calvin Tran. “I really wanted to get into computer science as a career and I feel like this is a really good building block for me to get there.”

The Succeeds Prize is awarded to Colorado public schools and educators that show innovation in education.

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A total of $150,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools in Colorado.

“We really feel that we need to continue to have academics excellence along with innovation,” Quiñones said. “And within those two it’s an equation for success for our students.”

A data-driven process was used to identify and recognize innovative public schools in Colorado.

“The students are really engaged in the program," Ringer said. “They like it, it’s hard, it’s a lot of work but they’re starting to see it pay off.”

For more information about The Succeeds Prize, go to: TheSucceedsPrize.org.

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