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Forging Ahead for the Children of Ward 8: Preparing Students for Careers in Engineering, Technology and Environmental Sciences

8/20/2014, 2 p.m.
This school year, an exciting new opportunity for a college preparatory middle and high school public education opens on Martin ...

This school year, an exciting new opportunity for a college preparatory middle and high school public education opens on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, in the Congress Heights neighborhood.  On Aug. 26, a brand-new $22 million state-of-the-art Technology Preparatory Academy school campus enrolling students from the sixth through the twelfth grade will open its doors for the start of the new school year. 

 Specializing in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — subjects and environmental sciences, the new campus will provide students with the high-quality education and 21stcentury skills necessary for success in today’s high-tech global economy.  The presence of the new facility will be felt in a community that has long been underserved for adequate educational, job and housing opportunities.  It is so important for minorities — for too long marginalized in the job market — to access the emerging field of environmental sciences.

The new facility includes a SMART — science, math and research technology — lab, allowing students to complete projects across a wide array of subject areas using the latest technology.  The building also includes a robotics lab, two chemistry labs, two biology labs and a rooftop greenhouse for career opportunities in environmental sciences, engineering and technology, including computer-aided design, 3-D printing and gaming.

Next door, on the site of the old St. Elizabeth’s hospital, is the new headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, offering the potential for career-oriented alliances for children in this historically neglected community. That site also will be home to a prestigious university or college presence, and will also be a high-tech hub for international technology names, such as Microsoft.

Additionally, the Tech Prep campus has been chosen as a site for a career academy in information technology.  This city investment allows further resources to be provided for students keen to enter this growing and often lucrative field.  Becoming lifelong IT learners will allow our students to use their skills to benefit from technology, rather than depend on jobs and careers that are increasingly displaced by it.

Every 11th and 12th grade student will be dual enrolled at Tech Prep, which, as a public charter school, is tuition-free and open to all District of Columbia-resident students, and in college, at no cost to themselves—an important benefit in this low-income community.  Students will earn both a high-school diploma and credit toward a college degree. The first 12th graders will graduate in the summer of 2015.

Tech Prep is one of six tuition-free public charter campuses operated by Friendship Public Charter School, which serves nearly 4,000 students in the District-resident students from preschool through the twelfth grade.  Adjacent to the new campus and also on Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. is Friendship’s Southeast Academy, an elementary school campus serving students from pre-kindergarten to the fifth grade.

This school year, 650 students will be enrolled at Tech Prep.  The aim is that this campus replicate in D.C.’s Ward Eight what has been achieved in Ward Seven by Friendship’s Collegiate Academy, which has an on-time graduation rate of 95 percent.