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New plan combines high school, college

SOUTHERN TIER--Area students from the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour school districts have the opportunity to take a different approach to their high school and college careers. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Academy began its first school year Sept. 7. Located at the Corning Community College (CCC) building near the airport in Horseheads, the academy is a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). P-TECH provides a new means of delivering instruction that allows students to earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree in up to six years at no cost to their families. In addition, graduates will be given a "first in line" opportunity for job placements with P-TECH corporate mentors.
"The vision for this school is to redesign educational pathways, systems, policies and programs that promote best practices aligned with what we believe are the conditions for productive learning and success of our students," said STEM Academy Principal Jeremy Wheeler. "This is an incredible opportunity to help move educational reform forward through this new model that we have created at the GST STEM Academy."
P-TECH curriculum includes career-infused, inquiry and project-based instruction with a focus on STEM. Instruction will be delivered in a student-centered, non-traditional, experiential classroom setting that helps students develop creativity and problem solving skills. Its 38 enrolled students completed a summer bridge session designed to orient and prepare them for the school year.
The Greater Southern Tier (GST) BOCES Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) partnership was awarded a $3 million New York State grant that helped provide the new educational opportunity for select students in up to 13 school districts in the GST region. Members of the GST BOCES P-TECH partnership include the Watkins Glen, Odessa-Montour, Hammondsport, Elmira, Addison, Bath, Bradford, Campbell-Savona, Corning-Painted Post, Elmira Heights, Horseheads, Spencer-Van Etten and Waverly School Districts.
Students will follow personalized pathways as they master academic, personal, technical and workplace skills needed to successfully transition from education to real-world careers. One of three tracks -- Advanced Technical Education, Health Care or Clean Energy -- will lead to attaining an associate's degree.
"I was inspired to teach at the STEM Academy because its mission is to redesign what we think of a student's educational experience," said English Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher Melissa Houck. "I wanted to be a part of that positive change of the face of education."
Current students say they chose to be a part of the program because it provides real world opportunities and allows them to learn in a hands-on environment.
P-TECH students were selected for enrollment by a committee comprising school district, higher education and business and industry representatives. GST BOCES serves as the lead implementation partner and Corning Community College is the higher education partner. Businesses participating in the P-TECH partnership include Corning Inc., Hilliard Corp., Cameron Manufacturing and Design, Hardinge Inc., Vulcraft Group, Dresser-Rand, Southerntier Custom Fabricators, Guthrie Corning Hospital, Arnot Health, Chemung County Health Department and Hunt Engineers, Architects and Surveyors and Renovus. There are currently 32 P-TECH schools in New York State.

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