Few 18-year-olds can say that they earn more than $50,000 a year working at a Fortune 500 company in New York City. Radcliffe Saddler can.
The Brooklyn teenager graduated in June from the public school known as P-Tech, short for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. He enrolled in the fall of 2011, as part of the school’s inaugural class of 103 students. The strong emphasis on math, science, and writing surprised him as a freshman, though he’d always been a good student.
“I did not understand the level of work it would require,” he recalls, “and that, sometimes, it would require me to give up hanging out with my friends.”
But the sacrifice was worth it. Saddler followed the trajectory laid out for P-Tech students and enrolled in his first college class—introductory engineering—after he completed the ninth grade. By the time he graduated, he earned both a high-school diploma and an associate’s degree in computer science—not to mention a job offer from IBM. He finished the six-year program in just four incredibly busy years.
P-Tech started in 2011 as a public-private partnership between IBM, the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, and New York City College of Technology. At the depth of the economic recession, city educators were looking for a way to connect high schools with potential employers. They found a willing partner in IBM for an experiment to give students a better handle on the skills they’d need in the workplace. They took over an old building of a failing school in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, which has a history of high crime and racial tension.