Class Act: Pathways to Technology

Seven Austin Independent School District schools have teamed up Austin Community College so seniors can graduate with no only a diploma but also a free associate's degree. One school, Navarro Early College High School, takes the program a step further with the help of IBM to prepare students for a career in the tech field.

Pathways to Technology or P-Tech is a collaboration so that in addition to earning their diploma this year's Navarro freshman class of 68 students will get a chance to earn an associate's degree in either UX (user experience) design or computer programming.

"With the P-Tech model what we definitely go after, or what we try to target is the underserved communities and the schools where the families don't have the resources or perhaps they don't know how they're going to figure out paying for college," says Nahum Pacheco, Industry Liason for IBM at Navarro Early College High School.

Those skills were chosen because they were deemed to be the most in demand in the Austin area.

"There is a definite shortage of designers. People that are well-versed in UX Design. So, it's definitely something that's booming within the booming tech industry," Pacheco says.

Pacheco adds that those who work in UX design connect people with products and services in ways that will last.

14-year-old freshman Tomas Sorto Nectail plans to go that route.

"It's amazing...My parents always told me to take the right opportunities and I find this is one of the best opportunities I can take," Nectail says.

Fellow 14-year-old freshman Zarqa Fatima is considering the computer programming option.

"So, ever since I was a little kid, I love tinkering and breaking apart things and doing "techy stuff." So, knowing that IBM is coming to my school and helping with the P-Tech program - I felt really happy," Fatima says. "Because then it's like having a support - knowing that this program isn't just going to fail. There's someone behind us - backing us up."

In addition to opportunities for paid internships at IBM starting their junior year satudents are mentored by IBM employees.

"These students have never had an opportunity like this - to sit down with a professional in a field they have an interest in, but don't have any connection to - is something that's major to them," Pacheco says.

The P-Tech program at Navarro also covers the cost of transportation to ACC and required books.

Once students complete the program they are guaranteed an interview with IBM.