NORTH PROVIDENCE – For the first time in school history, 12 North Providence High School students will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree from Community College of Rhode Island.
As part of the first Rhode Island Pathways in Technology Health Care cohort, all 12 seniors are planning to transfer to four-year schools this fall. They will enroll as juniors, having completed 60 college credits as part of the program.
The Community College of Rhode Island hosted the graduates and their families last Thursday at the Knight Campus in Warwick, celebrating their historic achievement.
College president Meghan Hughes commended the North Providence P-TECH students for bravely stepping into the unknown, beginning their P-TECH journey as the first group in North Providence to do so.
They chose the classroom over the beach during the summer months and persevered through one of the greatest health care crises the country has seen in decades, successfully transitioning to online learning while balancing a busy high school and college schedule.
All of this, Hughes said, demonstrates “a tremendous amount of determination and dedication to their academic success.”
P-TECH is a partnership between school districts, CCRI, Commerce RI, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and industry partners that allows students to earn both their high school diploma and associate degree over the course of four years for free, in addition to one-on-one mentoring, workplace visits, summer internships and career opportunities with partner businesses.
Since the program was launched in 2016, 600 Rhode Island high school students have taken advantage of opportunities to earn credits and professional experience. While the program is still in its early years, Hughes said the 12 NPHS students who successfully completed it serve as evidence that “this model works.”
“Our goal is graduating students who are ready to transfer to a four-year college or enter the workforce, and our work through the P-TECH model is an important step in helping these students prepare and train today for the jobs of tomorrow,” she added.
“CCRI made everything easier for our students,” said North Providence High School Principal Christen Magill. “They loved being on campus for their classes and they were welcomed openly as young adults in a college setting. The partnership has been exceptional.”
North Providence senior Amber Casey said the program helped confirm her dream of becoming a physical therapist.
When her father sustained a traumatic brain injury and was paralyzed in a skiing accident before she was born, she said she saw how physical therapy helped him achieve the ability to perform basic tasks, and move freely with the help of his wheelchair.
“I want to give people that sense of freedom and relief,” she said, noting that P-TECH renewed her passion for the field.
“P-TECH was a tremendous asset. To be able to shadow someone who is already in the industry and doing what we want to do helps you further understand what to expect once you enter the workforce. I am very, very grateful for the entire experience,” she said.
The program was challenging. Especially juggling high school and college classes at the same time.
Casey said Melissa Caffrey, the district’s director of Multiple Pathways Grades 6-12, kept the students grounded and encouraged them to press on.
Caffrey said the program is about drive, commitment and a passion for learning, “because if you have the drive, you will take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. These students are a prime example of that. They worked around the clock.”
Now Casey is set to graduate NPHS with her associate degree. In the fall, she’s off to Franklin Pierce College.
“If you asked me four years ago whether I’d have my associate degree as a high school senior I would have called you crazy, but here we are,” she said. “This program has been one incredible journey and the most amazing time of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Cameron Twitchell was initially attracted to the idea of earning an associate degree at no cost while attending high school.
After trying his hand at respiratory therapy, he developed an interest in forensic science and will begin pursuing a career in that field when he transfers next fall to Roger Williams University.
“I found out I was more interested in chemistry and actually really good at it, so I decided this was a career I’d be interested in,” Twitchell said. “P-TECH gave me the opportunity to enroll in those courses and discover what I really wanted to do with my education.”
North Providence Superintendent Joseph Goho said, “The students never cease to amaze us. The fact we had our first cohort and one of the largest groups of P-TECH students in the state surpassed our wildest expectations.”
In addition to earning their associate degree, several P-TECH students also earned their certified nursing assistant license at CCRI, which allowed for a more hands-on experience in working with industry partners such as Brookdale Senior Living, Fatima Hospital, and Golden Crest Nursing Centre.
Speaking during Thursday’s event, state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said the program makes “tangible connections between coursework and its application in the real world.”
“The knowledge and skills developed through P-TECH will benefit everyone who is graduating and give them a head start on their higher education pursuits,” he said.
When companies consider whether to locate to Rhode Island, state House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said a top concern is whether the state has enough skilled workers to support business growth.
“P-TECH programs like this enable students to gain valuable real-world experience while discovering different career paths, and it helps to build Rhode Island’s workforce pipeline,” he said.
“The students graduating from P-TECH have demonstrated initiative and dedication that will serve them well as they enter the workforce,” said R.I. Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green in a statement.
“Post-secondary education is becoming increasingly important for all career paths, and RIDE is proud to work together with Commerce RI and CCRI to provide our students with a path to earning a degree concurrent with their high school education. On behalf of RIDE, I want to extend our congratulations to today’s graduates and wish them the best of luck in their future careers,” she said.
The P-TECH graduates from North Providence are:
Jewliana Barry, transferring to Rhode Island College to pursue a career in radiology.
Amber Casey, transferring to Franklin Pierce University to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Amelia Davis, transferring to Rhode Island College to pursue a career in secondary education.
Alyashanti Green, transferring to Tufts University to study chemical physics and enter medical school.
Annette Gweh, transferring to Johnson & Wales to study biology and pursue a career in nephrology.
Deanna Irrizary, transferring to Rhode Island College to continue her education.
Meta Konte, transferring to Roger Williams University to pursue a career in dermatology.
Suzanne Mosley, transferring to Iona College to pursue a career in speech language pathology.
Jacklyn Nolan, transferring to Rhode Island College to study nursing.
Adedayo Owode, attending the University of Rhode Island to pursue a career in the health care industry.
Kallie Poulin, transferring to the University of New Hampshire to study biology.
Cameron Twitchell, transferring to Roger Williams University to study chemistry and pursue a career in forensic science.