The 2016 fall semester has been underway for several weeks at Baltimore City Community College, but on Sept. 16, the school welcomed a new class of potential graduates. The Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech) program began operations this year in Baltimore, accepting Carver Vocational-Technical High School and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School as its first participants.

Students from Carver Vocational-Technical High School and Paul Laurence Dunbar High participate in the P-TECH program at Baltimore City Community College. (Photo by Maliik Obee)

Students from Carver Vocational-Technical High School and Paul Laurence Dunbar High participate in the P-TECH program at Baltimore City Community College. (Photo by Maliik Obee)

A group of shouting BCCC students chanted and gave out hi-fives to the group of 100 ninth-graders from Carver and Dunbar as they filled the seats of the campus auditorium.

The uniformed students created a small sea of colors, as Carver’s grey and Dunbar’s yellow polo shirts brightened the room.

The program features several high-end partners, including IBM, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore City Public Schools and the University of Maryland. A group of leading individuals behind the program were in attendance, including IBM’s Sally Scott Marietta and Baltimore City Schools’ director for career readiness Michael Thomas.

Thomas discussed his long-term plans for the group, enlightening the students on the great opportunity they have to graduate high school with a diploma and an Associate’s Degree.

“My goal is to have you graduate in four years not in six,” said Thomas. “You have my word: We are going to do everything in our power to get you where you need to be.”

The students were split into groups by their school and split again in half, as they were taken on tour throughout the various programs at the school.

One visit included to surgical technologist Andrea P. Drisdom, who gave students a crash course on being a surgeon’s assistant, showcasing the life-like surgical dummies on which students practice.

Each student has a one-on-one mentor, with mentors coming to the respective schools four times a year. The students and mentors also have access to MentorPlace, a website dedicated to making sure the students can communicate when needed with mentors in a safe, timely fashion.

P-Tech works to prepare students for the workforce, proposing to offer students the opportunity to be employed by the program’s partners upon graduation.

The program demanded no special criteria for enrollment, allowing students and parents the chance to jump on an unprecedented opportunity that, if successful, can lead to bigger opportunities for neighboring schools down the road.