Expanding high school opportunities within the public education system

While COVID-19 has disrupted our operations in ways we could have never imagined just a year ago, it has not impacted our desire and intent to expand opportunities for local high school students.

Last week, we announced the launch of a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) high school on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy in partnership with the college, our local school districts, and business partners.

Starting in September, local ninth graders will take advantage of several career-focused educational tracks through two state-funded programs — a four-year Smart Scholars Early College High School and a six-year Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) program.

These programs will provide our region’s students with an unparalleled academic experience. Students will access to four different pathways:

n Computer Information Systems/Web Development

n Engineering Technology, focusing on Civil Engineering

n Environmental Technology, focusing on Clean Energy Management, and

n Health Sciences, in areas such as Dental Hygiene, Radiologic Technology, and Respiratory Therapy.

The new high school will prepare students for in-demand jobs in STEM and related fields. Both programs address both education and workforce development skills gaps by providing innovative approaches to high school and college education, while engaging corporate partners and local communities in student success.

A key component of these programs is engagement from local companies such as the Tech Valley Center of Gravity and the Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence, whose involvement adds real-world experience and industry knowledge to the students’ education.

Students can earn up to 63 college credits toward an associate degree at no additional cost to their local districts or families — tuition, fees, books and instructional materials will be covered.

The program is open to incoming ninth graders from 46 school districts in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Southern Saratoga counties. Applications are now being accepted for the fall at www.questar.org/ptech-echs through April 28.

Questar III has also expanded its New Visions programs for high school seniors. This fall, we are launching a new Emergency Preparedness, Informatics, Cyber and Homeland Security (EPICH) program at the University at Albany. This program will introduce students to the necessary content and skills in emerging technologies and the use of data to anticipate and manage natural and man-made disasters and security.

This half-day program will be located in a new, state-of-the-art building on the University’s main campus. Students will have the opportunity to complete college courses each semester. These courses are directly applicable to a variety of career pathways in cybersecurity, homeland security, and emergency preparedness.

In addition to college coursework, students will learn beyond the classroom through experiential components including visiting intelligence hubs throughout the Capital Region, being introduced to professionals in the field, and threat simulations where students will problem-solve and position resources in real time to protect and save lives.

Students will be supported along the way to help them successfully make the transition from high school to college-level work, providing experience to continue coursework toward a degree in either cybersecurity, homeland security, or emergency preparedness. Students will exit the program with a strong understanding of modern-day technology and the relationship data has with societal hazards and disasters.

For more than 20 years, Questar III has offered a New Visions: Scientific Research & World Health program at the University at Albany’s Health Sciences Campus in Rensselaer. More recently, the University partnered with Questar III on a Pathways in Education program preparing local students for a career in the field of education.

Collaboration and innovation are an integral part of our continuing efforts to expand opportunities within the public education system. New and innovative educational opportunities together with real-life hands-on experiences will be essential to keep our high school students engaged after the pandemic. Thank you to our local school districts and partners for always putting students first.

Dr. Gladys I. Cruz is the district superintendent of Questar III, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) serving school districts in Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties.

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