Mahmoudah Aziz-Wesley wants to be a doctor. So do Cyndi Brown and Kassandra Rodriguez – pediatrician, the latter specifies. Kamearah Kendrick sees herself as an engineer.

The group of eighth-graders from Binghamton’s East Middle School started working toward their life goals Monday during the first Summer Institute, part of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program.

The grant-funded P-TECH program is a collaboration between SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga BOCES, 12 area school districts and a half-dozen industry partners, and is designed to provide a career pathway for economically disadvantaged students.

“I want to be a doctor at some point. The family I grew up in doesn’t have a whole lot of money, so this is an open door,” Brown said.

The six-year program will support students in earning both their high school diploma and associate’s degree from SUNY Broome in health science, computer technology or one of three engineering technology programs. Students will also be supported by industry partners, who will provide mentorship, guidance and workplace learning during the six years.

The initiative also aims at boosting the local economy by training workers with real skills – not only those related to their fields, but the so-called soft skills of communication and collaboration that are needed in a successful workplace, said Dawne Adams, P-Tech coordinator with the Binghamton City School District, the lead district in the program.

Students will be expected to take risks and make mistakes, both of which are crucial to the learning process, she told participants.

Fifty students were chosen for the six-year program from the following districts:  Binghamton, Chenango Forks, Chenango Valley, Deposit, Harpursville, Johnson City, Maine-Endwell, Owego-Apalachin, Susquehanna Valley, Union-Endicott, Whitney Point and Windsor. Industry partners include Bothar Construction; Delta Engineering, Architect & Land Surveyors; Lockheed Martin; Lourdes Hospital; Rockwell Collins; and United Health Services.

“Not everyone that applied was accepted,” Adams told the students.

There are 16 P-Tech programs in New York State, which is the first in the nation to implement an initiative that links education to regional economic development. Winning partnerships were selected via a competitive process and represent industries in each of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council areas.

Kendrick said she was recommended for the program by a guidance counselor. Students had to have good grades to qualify, Rodriguez said. They also had to write essays saying why they wanted to be in the program, added Aziz-Wesley and classmate Mykyala Nestoryak who, like many of her peers, envisions a future in health care.

The program kicked off Monday with group activities designed to foster communication and team-building.

Associate Vice President and Health Sciences Dean Andrea Wade directed students to break into small groups with unfamiliar faces. As directed, students constructed sculptures out of LEGO blocks and then, after taking one apart, instructed their peers on how to build a structure identical to the one that remained. The catch: the student following the instructions couldn’t see the prototype they were attempting to recreate, and the one giving the instructions couldn’t see the replica as it was being built.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, participants will split into two groups – health science and computer engineering – for instruction and activities. On Thursday, engineering and computer science students will head to Cheri Lindsey Park and then Delta Engineering to speak with engineers about their work. Health sciences students will speak with an official from UHS and then head to the Riverwalk Athletic Club to speak with a personal trainer.

“These are great life lessons,” Adams said as students worked on reconstructing their sculptures.

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