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Making a pledge to support public education can come in many forms. From organizations funding the gaps in student resources to individuals volunteering their time to mentor, there are models with proven track records of success.

IBM, which has a long history of partnership with public schools, developed a disruptive model, designed to change high school as we know it, and create pathways for students in inner city schools to develop skills that prepare them for college and careers in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math).

That partnership was the beginning of P-TECH.

“P-TECH started in 2011 with the central goal of easing the transition into the world of work by enabling students to earn their high school diplomas and a free associate degree in STEM-related fields,” said De’Rell Bonner, Program Manager, Education. “Since then the program has expanded to over 70 schools across the U.S., Australia, Morocco and Taiwan with the help of more than 400 committed partners in the industry.”

Bonner, who began his career as an educator in Prince George’s County, Maryland, recently joined IBM from the U.S. Department of Education. He’s been impressed with the outcomes of the model.

“From my experience in the classroom, external partnerships are imperative to bridge the gap between cash and resource-strapped districts. The current public school funding system makes it possible for students with extra needs, experiences to not receive the requisite services and supports they need to enter college or the workforce prepared,” said Bonner. “With P-TECH, industry is sitting at the table as a full partner, providing its expertise — mentoring, worksite visits, paid internships and “first in line” job opportunities that help students earn the academic, technical and professional skills required for 21st Century jobs, magnifying what public-private partnerships can be.”

Bonner is based in Chicago at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, which graduated its first cohort of high school students with their associates degrees this past spring. Approximately 19 more students are on-track to attain their associates degree in Spring ’18.

“I think what makes P-TECH work is in addition to being a model that prepares students with a two-year college degree and an opportunity for ongoing education, it creates a pathway for students to enter the workforce after completion,” said Bonner.

P-TECH provides students in grades 9-14 access to free community college courses and internships at IBM and other industry partners. and potential employment upon completion.

“P-TECH is a win for everyone. Industries have an active role in getting diverse talent into their ranks, and frankly more students could benefit from the types of opportunities and exposure we’re able to provide to students,” said Bonner.

“We live in a world where the life outcomes of young people are decided every day and they have no say in it,” said Bonner. “Student success, and equity, is about equipping young people with opportunities and allowing them to choose a pathway.”

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