P-TECH Students Are Redefining Race, Ethnicity and Gender Opportunities

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – Alana Harris and Anais Camacho are realizing anything is now possible when it comes to their future plans.

The fourth year Newburgh Free Academy P-TECH students have been experiencing firsthand how they need not be limited by anything- race, ethnicity, gender-when pursuing their dreams. Both students, with concentrations in the fields of cybersecurity, are carrying course loads filled with science, math and technology.

“When you think of people in the math and science fields, you usually think of men, but it’s inspiring to now know women can do these things as well,” said Camacho. “Also, before it was mainly Hispanics who were working in other types of jobs, but now that is changing as well.”

With the gradual removal of those barriers, students from all backgrounds are now pursuing traditionally male, white career paths. P-TECH, a unique program that affords high school students an opportunity to earn a two year college degree in various technology fields while accruing hands-on, real world internship experience, is seeing a growing number of females such as Harris and Camacho.

“It’s really inspiring to see more diversity in the tech field and even see things like a woman CEO at IBM,” explained Harris. “It shows we do have a chance to rise to the top positions.”

In fact, both young women had a female, familial connection that kicked off their P-TECH interest. For Camacho it was her older sister, who attended P-TECH before her and loved it.

The smaller classes, combined with attending an open house where she learned students from the Robotics Club had the opportunity to build robots while entering competitions with them, convinced her of her secondary education plans. While in Harris’ case, it was her mom’s idea to follow the P-TECH path. Always intrigued by science, Harris now sees “how cool computers are,” in addition to becoming more extroverted and confident while gaining priceless real world skills.

“I have learned a lot of professional skills, such as speaking in front of a wide range of people,” said Harris, who plays basketball for NFA’s All-Inclusive Team as well as holds down jobs at the Newburgh Unity Armory Center and the Town of New Windsor Recreation Department. “Also, having really good mentors at IBM has really helped calm my nerves; they are always there whenever you need them.”

Camacho too cites effective public speaking as one of the strongest assets she has gained from her P-TECH involvement. Perhaps even more importantly, she now has a clear vision of what she wants to do with her life after P-TECH: Enter the Air Force.

For both students, the P-TECH journey has been life-changing, allowing them to dream big, develop critical skills inside and outside of the classroom as well as develop a more defined picture of their futures that they can now approach with not only strong skill sets but priceless confidence.

“There are just so many opportunities P-TECH offers, such as earning your college degree in high school,” said Harris. “You don’t need to be an honor student to get into this program; you just need to have a strong interest in doing it.”

Even if you don’t continue that tech passion or your plans shift, the P-TECH journey remains one worth taking according to Camacho.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn even if you don’t like computers’ there are just so many things that you learn that prepare you for your future,” said Camacho. “It’s also a great opportunity to have something to fall back on even if you don’t use it. Reflecting further while smiling, she added, “It just changes you for the better.”

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