When kids are put on game early they can play with more longevity. And in a global, knowledge-based society, too many people hold out science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields as unattainable career options for more than a few people of color. Yet education leaders in Maryland, including the notable Black suburb Prince George’s County, positively track students toward these careers.  At Frederick Douglass High School, 62 freshmen expect to satisfy high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning associate’s degrees through the pathways in technology (P-Tech) early college program. Preparing high school newbies for college can increase their academic and longterm life options. 

“By blending high school, college, and workplace experience, P-Tech students will master in-demand skills, and employers will benefit from a steady pipeline of skilled professionals,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement.

Community stakeholders, ranging from the high school students themselves to staff at local junior colleges to area entrepreneurs, work in tandem for the students to earn college credit, professional certifications and entrance to four-year universities. Further, students can expect to earn internships, secure professional mentors and inch to the top of hiring stacks. Health information technology, cyber security and respiratory care are a few career pathways from which students may choose.

P-Tech originated in a Brooklyn high school through a partnership with IBM. So it stands to reason that students, in various P-Tech programs including Maryland schools, will be exposed to a wealth of information, experts and opportunities to better themselves – during an especially risky political climate. The Frederick Douglass students, in particular, should be consistently supported to make the most of these chances.

As mainstream discourse includes constant calls for diversity in Silicon Valley, young women and girls are encouraged to “lean in” and longtime academic activists decry racist admissions practices and argue for holistic affirmative action to boost institutional inclusivity, practical programs like early college can help some students of color, especially Black students, develop agency, independence and pride, while the students personally profit from their educations sooner.