But four years ago, these six students were among the first to enroll in a new public high school called P-TECH, short for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. The program, backed by IBM, aims to prepare mainly minority kids from low-income backgrounds for careers in technology. The idea is to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years or less. The students sitting in Barclays tonight—P-TECH’s inaugural graduates—plowed through the program in just four.
Since it opened in 2011, the likes of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Obama himself have praised the school as a potential solution to the nation’s high youth unemployment rate and its growing need for a skilled tech labor force. That makes tonight’s graduation more than a milestone for these six students. It’s a milestone for the model itself. From this day forward, Cletus Andoh, Gabriel Rosa, Kiambu Gall, Michelle Nguyen, Radcliffe Saddler, and Rahat Mahmud will be held up as irrefutable proof that this solution might actually work.