Onondaga Community College will award associate degrees to more than 300 students this month, and a handful of those recipients will be students who started taking classes here in high school as part of the P-TECH program. Because of how early they started and how well they have done, they are earning their degrees in just three semesters. "Finishing early gives me more time to explore what I want to do," said Eliza Velazquez who will receive her degree in Electrical Technology. "Time passes by really quick. We started coming here in 2017. It went by so fast it doesn't seem real," added Anita Khamtan who is the Mechanical Technology degree program.
Velazquez and Khamtan began coming to OCC three years ago as part of the P-TECH program while they were also students at the Syracuse Institute of Technology. P-TECH stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. The program helps high school students earn valuable credits toward an associate degree while partnering with industry leaders. They received their high school diplomas in 2019, then started taking classes full time at OCC.
Both students agree beginning college while in high school prepared them for learning at the next level. "When we started our professors understood we were still high school students and we would struggle. The environment was much different than what we were used to. The expectations were much higher. Our professors really helped us get through," said Velazquez. "P-TECH was such a blessing. They helped us learn how to make resumes with portfolios, we met with companies and created connections with them, we did a lot of team building, and were able to connect with everyone in our class," added Khamtan.
Once this semester is complete both students can begin focusing on what's next. Velazquez hopes to find a job with an employer who will pay for her bachelor's degree. Khamtan plans to pursue a four-year degree at either Rochester Institute of Technology or a top mechanical technology school in California. They want anyone considering the P-TECH pathway to know what a remarkable opportunity it is. "P-TECH is worth it because you earn a degree for free and learn a lot of mathematics you can apply to every day life," said Velazquez. "It's okay if you don't know what you want to do and try it," said Khamtan. "Everything you learn will stay with you."