This week, school districts across the country are celebrating a new vision for college and career readiness – one that prepares students to succeed in a 21st-Century workforce.
Early College Week recognizes those high schools that put students on an early path to success by connecting them with college and the world of work. Through their partnerships with colleges and industry, they are preparing students for the technology jobs of the future even before they graduate from high school.
“We’re always talking about preparing students for college and career, but we need to think about what that really means,” said Lisa Washington, Program Manager for the Early College STEM program at Corliss High School. “The Early College program gets students in the right mindset for higher education while broadening their world view.”
Like all the Early College STEM Schools (CPS also maintains Early College programs at Michele Clark, CVCA, Goode, and Lake View), Corliss partners with one of the City Colleges of Chicago to provide students with college-level courses in English, Biology, Precalculus, and other disciplines. The students from Corliss attend classes at Olive Harvey, which has enhanced both their academic development and social emotional learning.
“They don’t treat them like high school students,” said Washington. “These students are on a college campus being taught by professors, and are expected to follow and keep up with a syllabus. It teaches them about accountability and helps them grow into mature, responsible young adults.”
When not at Olive Harvey, the Early College students at Corliss are taking giant leaps in their high school STEM classes, constructing renewable energy solar cars, dismantling and rebuilding computers, and creating robots. The robotics club recently completed an underwater robot, the process of which was an educational experience in science, engineering and buoyancy.
“It’s not just about building the robot,” said Washington. “It’s about figuring out why certain approaches did and did not work. These kinds of projects build student aptitude for technology, but also advance their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”
Similarly, the Technovation Team from Lake View is currently creating apps to improve the academic experience of their fellow students.
“Our freshmen team is working on an app for a student organizer,” said Jennifer Sutton, the Early College Program Manager at Lake View, “and our sophomores are creating an app that would allow collaboration between teachers and students on homework, quizzes, etc. and would allow students to earn redeemable points for reaching academic goals.”
The Technovation Teams will present their ideas at a spring competition from Iridescent – a nonprofit that provides opportunities for students, particularly girls, to pursue an interest in technology.
“It’s much more than developing the app,” said Sutton. “These students went through the entire entrepreneurial process, creating a market survey and business plan and formally presenting their project. They received guidance from a technology mentor with Iridescent, who has been an excellent partner.”
Strong partnerships like this are key to the success of an Early College program. CPS currently partners with Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola and Verizon, who provide one-on-one mentoring, job shadowing and development opportunities for students at the District’s five Early College STEM Schools.
“Even if students don’t pursue a STEM path, there is no career they will enter that isn’t touched by technology,” said Jennifer Sutton, whose Lake View students work directly with Microsoft. “Our industry partner has been great about raising their awareness of this and introducing them to technology careers they might never have known about if not for the Early College program.”
The support being leant to these programs by the technology industry is rivaled only by the City Colleges, which have welcomed students to their campuses with respect and enthusiasm.
“We’re excited by this opportunity to start students out early on a college path,” said Lisa Hernandez, Director of Public Relations for Daley College. “Our goal is to provide CPS students with credentials of economic value that will prepare them for the jobs of the future. Long term, this partnership benefits not only these students, but the entire city of Chicago.”
Currently, Daley has over 100 students from Sarah Goode Early College STEM School enrolled in college courses such as English, Precalculus and Geometry. These classes are taught by Daley College faculty, 70 percent of whom hold PhD’s in their fields. The Goode students are treated just like their Daley College classmates and are expected to keep up with the advanced workload and curriculum. So far, they’ve risen to the challenge.
“They are driven, focused students who want to excel and are appreciative of the opportunities they’ve been given,” said Hernandez. “The faculty and staff have been very impressed with their eagerness to learn and be involved.”
The CPS Early College STEM Schools are currently preparing for Tech Fest, a technology competition that requires them to disassemble and rebuild computers and show their expertise in networking and robotics.
“This is just one more example of what an Early College program can offer, which is the chance for students to go down an early path of college and career success,” said Lisa Washington. “This exposure to advanced technology, along with the opportunity to earn college credit and work with industry professionals helps them get into the mindset they need to be successful in the future.”