Representatives from Martin Van Buren High School and a new school, Business Technology Early College High School, both in Queens Village, spoke to a room of about 60 people at Bellerose Assembly of God on Hillside Ave. at Community Board 13's recent October meeting.
Both schools currently offer students a chance to earn college credit that can be transferred to any university after they graduate high school.
“They don’t have to take any AP classes, and not only do they get high school credits, but they get Syracuse College credit as well,” said Sam Sochet, who has been the principal of Martin Van Buren High for the past three years. “We’re the only school in Queens that does this.”
Van Buren, located at 230-17 Hillside Ave., is in a partnership with Syracuse University in a program called Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA). The program was created in 1972 to combat “senioritis,” when students choose to spend their senior year of high school relaxing instead of preparing for their transition to college.
Through the program, Van Buren High School sends teachers to Syracuse University and they are trained to teach college courses to their high school students. Some of the courses students can take through the program are pre-med, pre-engineering, and pre-law, according to Sochet.
Van Buren has sent four teachers for training and is looking to send about four more. Sochet said students do not need to take any placement exam since the classes are not AP, but the classes do cost about $100 per credit, a small price compared to the university’s nearly $60,000 yearly tuition.
“It’s a great value, great opportunity, and great experience for our kids.” said Sochet.
Knatasha Hunter, a math and business teacher at Business Technology Early College High School, also came to talk to board members about the new school. BTECH, which is co-located in Martin Van Buren High School, just opened its doors in September.
The school allows students to earn their associate's degree in computer information technology or internet technology, according to Hunter, by offering education up to grade 14.
Students take one college class during their second year, and continue to take both college and high school classes until their last year, which is when they should be taking all college classes on campus at Queensboro Community College in Bayside and interning at SAP, a software company based in Germany.
“Our hopes are that they either continue working and going to school so that they can finish their bachelor's and move on to their master's, or go into the workforce full-time at a software company.” said Hunter.
Students don’t have to take an entrance exam to get into BTECH, and the program is free. The school currently has 126 students.
There were a few concerns from some, including Nathan Lawrence, who did not like that the programs force kids to know what they want to do in life at such a young age, and said that the schools might not be for the average student who doesn’t excel academically.
He also noted they might not even get into schools like Syracuse, so the credits might not transfer. However, Sochet and Hunter assured board and audience members that credits would transfer to any university, and the general attitude towards the schools was positive.
“BTECH is an incredible program and the curriculum really seems to let kids become successful and it addresses our current economy,” said board member and Rosedale resident Kyle Bragg. “This program should be replicated throughout the city because it is a model for success, and the opportunity to earn credits is great to the individual student and their families. I see win, win, win with this program.”