Kasey Hodge is a junior at Saratoga Springs High School, but she is taking courses at SUNY Adirondack and getting a head start on her goal of a degree in biomedical engineering.
Hodge is enrolled in the college credit courses for free and receives hands-on experience from local businesses in the industry. She said it’s an opportunity that expands her education in science and engineering.
“At the high school we have some tools but we get more tools at SUNY Adirondack,” Hodge said. “Basically, you get so much freedom here and you can use that to your advantage.”
She is part of SUNY Adirondack’s early college high school program, which is a partnership between Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES and school districts including Hudson Falls, Queensbury and Saratoga Springs.
The program allows high school students to take classes for up to 28 college credits. Business partners including computer chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries and Momentive Performance Materials provide students with hands-on experience in their facilities.
“This program gives you a great basis for engineering and working hands-on with real-life experiences,” Hodge said. “We are getting internships right now and I just got a mentor over at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany. I will get to work on testing drugs on bacteria and finding cures for diseases. That’s basically what I want to do.”
Students in the early college program take courses at SUNY Adirondack with classes such as advanced manufacturing, engineering and electrical technology. The goal of the program is for companies like GlobalFoundries to hire local college graduates with the required skills in technology and manufacturing.
Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s career, technical and adult education, visited the college in Queensbury on Wednesday and was “overwhelmed” by the students’ high-tech skills.
“We are huge fans of high school programs that offer college credits and hands-on training in the industry,” Messier said. “It’s obvious that employers need a skilled workforce to keep our economy growing.”
Messier said there’s a new initiative in the federal budget to redesign high schools for students to gain college credits and participate in internships. She said SUNY Adirondack’s early college high school program is the poster child for that concept.
Sharon Miller, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Division of Academic and Technical Education, joined Messier along with local school officials and business leaders to discuss the program.
Miller grew up in Schenectady and attended Schenectady High School. She received her Ph.D. from the University at Albany in educational theory and practices. She said she is proud of the Capital Region tech boom and educational opportunities.
“This program is a model that we want to promote across the country,” Miller said. “These kids are going to have a leg up where ever they go following high school. It’s so great to know these programs are in our backyard.”
She said she would like to see the early college high school programs expanded to include ninth- and 10th-graders. Miller said the ultimate goal is for students to graduate from high school with an associate’s degree.
“Once the program is expanded, it will give students more opportunities to get the remaining credits for an associate’s degree,” Miller said. “Then students will have a degree when they leave high school and if they want to go right to work before college they can.”