By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Learning does not get much more real world than it did for 37 high school students this summer at Poughkeepsie’s IBM site.
For many teenagers, summer time means a break from learning, freedom from a set schedule and even responsibility. Days are filled with relaxing, outdoor activities and other fun pursuits. However, for a group of Newburgh Free Academy P-TECH seniors, the months of July and August contained some unique academic and social challenges as well as in some cases, life-changing opportunities.
Assigned to teams, the students-whose school program allows them to earn both a high school diploma as well as no-cost associate’s degree in fields like computer networking and cybersecurity- were given high tech project assignments to troubleshoot during their internships. All of their hard work and growth were on display at the IBM Internship Expo, “Soaring to new Heights,” Thursday morning at the IBM facility. Signs of their learning could be detected everywhere as they presented their findings to a room full of very attentive, impressed guests.
“I’ve learned how to work with different types of people; it’s not always easy, but you have to find ways to manage,” explained Anais Camacho, an intern responsible for managing middleware and database services, who is a fourth year P-TECH student. “It’s not just the traditional high school experience (P-TECH); taking both high school and college classes, you have to really work on different types of skills such as time management.”
The non-traditional, hands-on and fast growing P-TECH program now has 200 schools globally. Providing students from disadvantaged neighborhoods the opportunity to earn two diplomas at once, the unique educational path creates excitement for all those affected by it.
“This is the best school I have ever worked at in all my years in education,” exclaimed Danille Jager, Education Program Manager for IBM Corporate Social Responsibility at Newburgh Free Academy P-TECH, to Thursday’s crowd. “The students are just awesome.”
Another one of those amazing interns was Octavius Fryar. Working at IBM’s client experience center, Fryar’s project focused on cloud computing.
“We (Robinson Denis- a 5th year P-TECH student was his team member) developed a tool that could help issue tracking and project management, making a more efficient way IBM employees can get projects done,” said Fryar about his internship experience. “I also learned collaboration is very important, and it’s key to having a balanced work load between academics and work.” He added, “It’s really great experience to work in groups and with diverse people; you don’t always want to do things alone because you will never get a new perspective.”
Following the hour segment when students presented their summer findings to guests, the next hour featured selected top teams making power point presentations, delineating creative, visual snapshots of their memorable experiences. In addition to outlining the intricacies of their newfound skill sets in areas such as; writing databases, creating webpages, IBM 2 Systems Test Services and more, interns also emphasized the work and real life takeaways they will carry with them for many years. Whether it was learning how to work with people, why asking why three times is critical, the importance of being punctual, or not being afraid to ask for help, each student walked away from their six week experience wiser, more confident, and prepared to face the academic and work challenges that confront them.
“The biggest things I learned were the value of other people and asking for help when you need it,” said Anthony Grice, a 2019 NFA P-TECH graduate, majoring in Cybersecurity, who worked with IBM Cloud and the Cognitive Solutions Team this summer. “If you run into a problem, there are always people who will help you and know a solution.”