When Clyde Van Dyke was in middle school, college was unimaginable. Even a high school degree seemed unrealistic; after all, his father didn’t graduate, and Clyde lost his mother when he was only 3. He grew up poor and without the financial and familial resources of his peers.
Fast-forward to his senior year in high school, and the Johnson City teen is already taking classes at SUNY Broome. A part of the P-TECH program, he was recently named the winner of the 2019 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), sponsored by HughesNet.
In 4-H, he is the national spokesperson for all things STEM and celebrated for his skills with geospatial mapping. He has met with leaders at Google headquarters in New York City, offering his perspectives on how to make STEM more appealing to young people. Clyde has already received one $5,000 college scholarship and is in the running to win $10,000 more at the 10th annual 4-H Legacy Awards banquet in Washington, D.C.
All of it – the scholarship, the academic success, the opportunities through P-Tech – may owe itself to one particular day, when a friend invited him to a 4-H technology club meeting and transformed his life. He discovered a knack for all things tech, and the motivation, resources and communications skills he needed to excel.
“I really like computers and computers seem to like me as well,” he said. “I’m really getting into computer science and the whole coding aspect.”
Through Broome County 4-H, Clyde became involved in the Geospatial Mapping Club, which uses mapping to visualize data. He has since used geospatial mapping to explore a range of societal issues, including the development of the opioid epidemic from 2008 to 2018 and factors that contribute to high overdose death rates, he explained.
He also plotted costs for 4-H day camps, with the aim of helping low-income families with the decision-making process. For a career exploration day at Cornell University, he developed a mobile application that plotted building locations and places of interest; it was a hit.
“There was a lot of positive reaction to that: ‘They were like, Oh my God, a kid did this?’” he said.
A head start in college
Not only is college in Clyde’s future, he is well on the way to earning his Associate’s degree through P-Tech. Funded by a grant, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a collaboration between SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga BOCES, area school districts and a half-dozen industry partners, and is designed to provide a career pathway for economically disadvantaged students.
This is Clyde’s fourth year in P-Tech and the first taking classes on the SUNY Broome campus. For the first three years in the program, he took Fast Forward courses through Broome-Tioga BOCES, and found his path in computer science.
“Being on a college campus – I have so many friends who are jealous! It’s a new level of independence, being able to walk to your own classes,” said Clyde, who won P-Tech’s Shining Star Award last year.
Of course, there are tradeoffs: The workload is definitely heavier than a high school class, but Clyde doesn’t mind. He is currently taking courses in computer programming and online security, and enjoyed an online Winter Term career exploration class that gave him the opportunity to map out his life’s path.
Through P-Tech, Clyde also completed an internship at BAE Systems over the summer. “It got me thinking about my career path in the future,” he said.
While P-Tech students typically finish their degree at SUNY Broome following graduation, Clyde – who will have half of his Associate’s degree completed this May – will transfer to SUNY Delhi this fall to major in digital forensics and computer information systems.
“I feel like SUNY Broome gets into project based learning and hands-on interactions. That’s something you don’t get a lot in a high school class,” he reflected. “P-TECH has definitely shown me that college is a viable option.”