CUMBERLAND — Two Allegany County Public Schools students are each set to receive a two-year college degree two weeks before they get their high school diploma.
Cameron Robertson, 17, and Cody Blankenship, 18, are completing the P-TECH program, which is housed in the Center for Career and Technical Education and allowed them to earn credits at Allegany College of Maryland while they completed high school.
Students in eighth grade can apply to be part of the program and are selected via lottery system.
Selected students are placed in a four-, five- or six-year pathway to earn an associate degree in computer technology with concentration in cybersecurity.
“Once in the program, their tuition, fees, textbooks (and) materials are paid for by various funding sources,” said ACPS P-TECH Program Coordinator Melissa Kaye-Kamauff.
“They take their first college class in 10th grade,” she said via email. “Depending on which pathway they are in will depend on how many college classes they will take each semester.”
The four-year pathway allows students to finish their associate degree at the same time they finish high school.
“All of their college classes are integrated with their high school schedule,” Kaye-Kamauff said. “We take advantage of dual enrollment early college classes, which allow the student to count the course towards both high school and college graduation.”
The students also receive 13 articulated credits through their high school course work in the IT & Networking Academy at CCTE.
“P-TECH gives students extra support in high school and college,” Kaye-Kamauff said. “They attend field trips, conferences, state competitions, have guest speakers and receive tutoring as needed. The biggest part of P-TECH is not only preparing them for a job in cybersecurity but the partnership with local IT leaders and partners.”
P-TECH students can also receive a six-week paid internship and are first in line for open jobs with local companies that partner with the program.
“Considering that Cody and Cameron are taking college courses concurrently with high school classes speaks to their commitment to the P-TECH program and their level of maturity,” Jim House, ACM associate professor, chair of computer technology, said via email. “Because they are in the ‘Fast-Track,’ or four-year plan, this makes this achievement even more incredible. Our cyber faculty are impressed by them as well as their coursework.”
ACPS Chief Academic Officer Kim Kalbaugh said P-TECH is a partnership among K-12, community college and industry.
“A group of stakeholders from each of the entities have made long-term commitments to lending their expertise and support to provide students with rigorous and hands-on academic, career/technical, and workplace experiences,” she said via email.
“From day one, the Allegany County P-TECH program has been built upon a culture of high expectations for students and a sustaining belief that our students are capable of earning a college degree during high school or within two years of finishing high school,” Kalbaugh said. “In the initial stages of development, we strategically designed the activities and experiences so that P-TECH students see themselves as college students from the moment they enter 9th grade.”
In addition, tutoring services are available through the high school and colleges to help students meet academic challenges, she said.
“Allegany County is blessed to have two higher education institutions, Allegany College of Maryland and Frostburg State University, within driving distance,” Kalbaugh said. “Both of these institutions are strong partners with the ACPS and work diligently with us to provide academic and emotional support for high school students who are enrolled in early college courses.”
Blankenship said the P-TECH program has allowed him to get a head start in his chosen career field.
“(It) has really made me feel prepared for the workforce,” he said via email.
After his upcoming graduations, Robertson plans to further his degree and education at FSU.
“I think the P-TECH program is a great program that gives great opportunities for me and other students to graduate with a degree focused on cybersecurity,” he said.
The program “is amazing,” said his mom, Tina Robertson.
“I’m so proud and so grateful for the P-TECH program,” she said.
ACPS will host a virtual live informational meeting for parents and students interested in learning more about the P-TECH program.
The event will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 25.
The window to apply for the program is from Feb. 26 to 5 p.m. March 11.
For more, visit acpsmd.org and click the P-TECH Quick Link.