Brock McWherter didn’t just finish his college degree before graduating high school, although that’s impressive enough. He also landed a real job in his field at Delta Engineering.
“I did an internship with them in high school and college, and they gave me an offer,” the Civil Engineering Technology major explained. Having his future path established at such a young age is a relief, he added: “I’m such a planner as a person.”
The Harpursville student joins Callie Grassi from Maine-Endwell, Yana Moroz from Chenango Valley and Gray Dailey from Union-Endicott as the very first graduates from the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. A collaboration between SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga BOCES, area school districts and a half-dozen industry partners, P-TECH is designed to provide a career pathway for economically disadvantaged students.
The program typically takes six years, starting in the freshmen year of high school and culminating in an associate’s degree in health science, computer technology or engineering technology – all free to the students. Students are also supported by industry partners, who provide mentorship, guidance and workplace learning.
But thanks to hard work, dedication and some smart advising, these four students graduated from SUNY Broome ahead of schedule – in some cases before they walked in their high school graduation. Binghamton High School’s Nyantwig Akol, who will complete her associate’s in December, isn’t far behind.
“Technically, this is our first graduation ceremony. No one was supposed to graduate until next year,” said P-TECH coordinator and Principal Matt Sheehan during a June 12 ceremony at Broome-Tioga BOCES.
A Health Studies major at SUNY Broome, Callie is headed off to Mansfield University this fall, where she will major in nutrition. Her goal is to become a dietitian.
“I’ve always had an interest in science and in how the body works. And I love food! I want to specialize in diabetes, how sugar interacts with the body,” she explained.
Fellow Health Studies majors Gray and Nyantwig are both interested in emergency medicine – and both are New York State-certified EMTs who will be working in their fields this summer. Gray will then head to SUNY Geneseo this fall and Nyantwig to Binghamton University next spring, both to study biology and, ultimately, go to medical school.
Nyantwig’s end goal is to become a trauma surgeon, while Gray is considering emergency medicine or neurology. Gray has some short-term goals, too: to ace the medical terminology competition at the national SkillsUSA conference. He has already taken top honors in regional and state competitions for the past two years, and came in fourth nationally last year.
Health Studies major Yana Moroz is transferring into SUNY Broome’s Nursing program this fall, with the long-term goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist. Because she was able to complete many of the prerequisites through P-TECH, she won’t face a heavy course load at SUNY Broome.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping others, and I became interested in that field at a young age,” reflected Yana, who is this year’s P-TECH valedictorian. “I was happy to be a part of the first group of P-TECH, and getting some real life experience. I have a free associate’s degree!”
Brock, too, plans to return to SUNY Broome to earn an additional degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology – all while working in his chosen field.
During the P-TECH commencement ceremony, the program started a new tradition: giving each graduate a book to inspire their future. This year, they received Giles Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance, a children’s book inspiring them to reach for them dreams – even if others don’t initially believe in them.
It’s a message that Yana, as the class valedictorian, also shared with her peers.
“You should all be extremely proud of yourself as you continue your journey to become doctors, nurses, engineers and tech wizards,” she said. “With hard work, determination and will, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
P-TECH is a good option for students who have drive and dedication, and who have an idea of the field they want to pursue, Nyantwig advised.
Interested students shouldn’t “look down” on SUNY Broome and the community college experience, Gray added. He found his professors to be knowledgeable and his classes valuable and challenging – a “building experience” for his future.
“It was neither a high school experience nor a college experience, but really a mixture of both. It had the timeline of high school and the freedom of college all mixed together,” Brock reflected. “We just appreciated all the support from our teachers here at SUNY Broome and in our home schools. There is such a huge amount of support for the program and it led to our success.”
Community partners are critical to that success, and Broome-Tioga BOCES recognized three for their contribution to the program: Union-Endicott Superintendent Suzanne McLeod, retiring after 43 years in education; Mark Forrest, director of operations for Superior Ambulance Service; and SUNY Broome’s own Erin O’Hara-Leslie.
Professor O’Hara-Leslie, chair of Medical Assisting and Health Studies at SUNY Broome, became involved with P-TECH five years ago, and “wowed the students and sparked their interest from day one,” Sheehan said. Her advising also allowed Yana, Gray and Callie to graduate ahead of schedule.
“This has been an amazing opportunity to watch your growth,” Professor O’Hara-Leslie told students.
The Class of 2019
In addition to Brock, Callie, Gray, Yana and Nyantwig, other members of the P-Tech Class of 2019, who will be transferring to SUNY Broome, are:
- Health Studies major Shazaria Beaver from Binghamton High School
- Mechanical Engineering Technology major Alexander Blaasch from Binghamton High School
- Computer Technology major John Corbin from Chenango Valley
- Mechanical Engineering Technology major Nicholas Faiella from Binghamton High School
- Health Studies major Pilar Finsel from Binghamton High School
- Civil Engineering Technology major Devon Herman from Binghamton High School
- Health Studies major Guerlincia Joseph from Binghamton High School
- Civil Engineering Technology major Mariah Kirchner from Binghamton High School
- Computer Technology major Alec Lindsey from Johnson City
- Computer Technology major Edwin Lorquet from Binghamton High School
- Computer Technology major Mack Magargle from Johnson City
- Health Studies major Amera Molazem from Binghamton High School, also the recipient of P-TECH’s 2019 Shining Star Award
- Computer Technology major Caleb Richardson from Union-Endicott
- Health Studies major Lauren Richmond from Whitney Point
- Computer Technology major Zachary Sarvey from Chenango Valley
- Health Studies major April Scott from Binghamton High School
- Computer Technology major Demarr Shahid from Binghamton High School
- Health Studies major Wilfred Suarez from Binghamton High School
- Computer Technology major James Tedesco from Johnson City
- Civil Engineering Technology major Justin Vaughan from Windsor
- Mechanical Engineering Technology major Gavin Wingard from Whitney Point
Clyde Van Dyke, a Computer Technology major from Johnson City and the recipient of the 2018 Shining Star Award, will transfer to SUNY Delhi. Clyde recently won the 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and is 4-H’s national spokesman for all things STEM.