By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – When you talk with Christian Molina, he looks you right in the eyes, displaying confidence while coming across very professionally.
They are critical people skills that the 16 year old Newburgh Free Academy P-TECH senior credits to his unique education experience. Providing students from disadvantaged neighborhoods an opportunity to earn high school and free of charge associates college degrees simultaneously, the rapidly growing P-TECH program features hands-on programs in fields such as computer networking and cybersecurity. Starting up in 2014 at the Newburgh Free Academy North Campus, the P-TECH program offers 50 spots per year in a lottery-style format. Molina, first introduced to the program in middle school, immediately became intrigued.
“I have always been interested in computers, and when my dad told me about a high school program where you can work with cybersecurity, it was an idea that really interested me,” recalled Molina, who has attended Newburgh Schools his entire life. “Now that I chose the program and am taking courses I really like it, I realize it’s exactly what I want to do.”
A fourth year P-TECH student, Molina is taking AP English and Economics at the Newburgh Campus. Later in the day, he ventures across town to the Orange County Community College Campus, where he is enrolled in Criminology, Computer Forensics, Information Security, and Networking. His computer skill set already involves knowledge in and a competence in such areas as; coding language, Linux, HTML, and Java. This past summer, he was able to apply much of it in a real world scenario at IBM in Poughkeepsie where he did an internship, documenting wires through a test floor as well as updating databases. Working with other adults in a professional setting, he accrued countless life skills as well as technical ones.
Getting a true taste of working life in the field he is passionate about during his six week summer experience, Molina was full of gratitude for the multiple opportunities for growth.
“I now feel I’m able to talk to-communicate better with people,” said Molina, who also boxes during his free time as well as holds down a part-time job at a local farm. “I’m also more professional and confident because I had to interview for this internship, and it really helped me because now I can go up and just talk to people while before I was really shy.”
In addition to the internship, Molina also had the opportunity to visit Thailand through the “Global to Local” program, also part of P-TECH. Here, groups of students completed such tasks as; making concrete roadways, bringing canes to people in need and painting a school among other ways of giving back.
“I met new people and was just so grateful,” reflected Molina about the experience. “I saw life in a whole new perspective and am now more willing to help.”
As Molina looks to the future, he hopes to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity, do an apprenticeship with IBM this summer, and possibly join a new Cybersecurity group at the Poughkeepsie work site. In the meantime, he is hoping to take full advantage of all the amazing opportunities that lie before him this school year.
“I would recommend this school for students interested in cybersecurity and networking, hands-on kinds of people,” said Molina. “It really helps you grow as a person with important real world skills, and for things like college entry, it makes you more responsible and prepared as a person in so many ways.”