By Rashid Ferrod Davis.
Twenty-three years ago this May, I graduated from Morehouse College as part of the largest class in the college’s history through 1992. Features in national media outlets told the stories of several young leaders from the Class of 1992, including why they had chosen Morehouse over such schools as Cornell and Stanford, the commitment to service that Morehouse had instilled in them, and their plans for making the most of themselves and doing their best for their communities. On Commencement Day this year, Morehouse’s President acknowledged my work with P-TECH, and what we and our partners are doing to help level the playing field for a new generation of young leaders.
Today, our school celebrates its first graduating class – six extraordinary young people who, through talent and tenacity, are finishing the six-year P-TECH program in just four years, and beating the odds. After accepting the P-TECH challenge of rigorous academics, extended school days, summer sessions, workplace learning, mentoring and internships, each of these graduates has earned either a high-paying job with IBM, or acceptance to a four-year college or university. Four of the six are the first in their families to graduate college. Each of them personifies what it means to redefine oneself based on one’s highest expectations.
P-TECH is redefining possibilities for 17 and 18-year olds so that by their mid-20s their lives have different trajectories than those of their peers from similar socio-economic backgrounds and previous generations. The success of these six students shows that achievement gaps can be closed when young people have access to equitable opportunities and resources. We look forward to more of the types of public-private partnerships that are reinventing high schools as engines for success.
Continue reading to meet the P-TECH Class of 2015.
Cletus Andoh, 17, will be the first in his family to graduate college. He will graduate college with honors. Cletus, who immigrated from Ghana at age 7, helped build a website from scratch during his summer internship at IBM Research. One of his teachers recalled that despite being a gifted math student, Cletus was not applying himself early on. But his teachers helped him understand the importance of classroom achievement and he began to strive for excellence. Cletus now ranks among the top students in his grade and is headed to Syracuse University. He dreams of traveling around the world and pursuing a career in IT.
Gabriel Rosa, 17, will be the first in his family to graduate college. Gabriel has a passion for creative software programming. At age 14, Gabriel hacked into the school’s computer system. The principal knew the importance of engaging students like Gabriel and instead of penalizing him, rechanneled his energy towards honing his programming skills. That strategy paid off when Gabriel helped reprogram over 40 laptops at the school. During his IBM Digital Marketing internship, he redesigned a demos landing page for an IBM website. His internship supervisor described him as “one of the brightest high school students I’ve ever met.” Gabriel dreams of one day starting his own software company. Gabriel will begin his career at IBM as a digital commerce specialist.
Kiambu Gall, 17, is an elite sprinter and will be the first in his immediate family to graduate college. Kiambu gets his drive from his mother, who has raised him mostly on her own. Though he entered P-TECH behind in reading, the principal and teachers’ commitment to student excellence transformed his academics. One of his teachers remembered him changing from a “poker-faced, stoic freshman” to “a scholar-athlete and gentleman.” Kiambu recalled a memorable day when he passed his college courses and finished top place at a citywide track competition, which helped him understand the rewards of hard work. Kiambu will begin his career at IBM as an associate analyst at IBM Market Development & Insights.
Michelle Nguyen, 17, will be the first in her family to graduate high school and college. She will graduate college with honors. As the first P-TECH student to take college calculus as a high school sophomore (where she earned an A), Michelle is academically exceptional and honed her skills in web design and mobile app development. Her goal is to pursue a career in pharmacy. Michelle will be attending Long Island University.
Radcliffe Saddler, 18, introduced President Obama during his 2013 visit to P-TECH and serves as a role model for his classmates and his two younger brothers, one of whom
is in his third year at P-TECH. Radcliffe took his first college course at age 15, the summer after ninth grade, and will graduate P-TECH in four years. Radcliffe is an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to design products that help people. His mother says P-TECH has opened doors of opportunity for her sons and has enabled them to advance at their own speed. Radcliffe will begin his career at IBM as an associate analyst at IBM Market Development & Insights.
Rahat Mahmud, 17, will graduate college with honors. He is a high achieving student with a passion for computers. His mother was so impressed with the opportunities at P-TECH that she moved from Queens to Brooklyn so that her son could be closer to the school. Rahat wants to pursue a career in software engineering. He has earned a full tuition scholarship to Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, a prestigious program open to the most academically gifted students.
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