Shortly after noon on Wednesday, 51 students cut the ceremonial ribbon to open their new school. With giant scissors in hand, bright sun on their faces and a crowd of invited guests looking on, the HFM Agriculture PTECH students officially opened the doors to new agriculture-themed career pathways.
School officials, business partners, government representatives and members of the media gathered September 21, 2016 in front of the former D. H. Robbins Elementary School in St. Johnsville to help the students, parents and teachers celebrate the grand opening of the new Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Agriculture Pathways in Technology Early College High School.
Principal Kristy Shafer welcomed the guests, thanking everyone who played a role in launching HFM’s second PTECH. Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer served as master of ceremonies.
“We’ve watched the excitement and innovation at the first PTECH in Johnstown over the last two years,” Kilmer said, recognizing that school for being named a Model School for 2016 by the International Center for Leadership in Education. “The concept is working here, and is undoubtedly why the state has awarded this region the opportunity to create a second PTECH school.
Of the 32 PTECH programs in New York State, HFM Ag-PTECH is the only program focused on agriculture, offering nine career pathways for students in related fields.
Several elected officials or their representatives participated in the event, offering encouragement and congratulations on the beginning of a new adventure for the students and staff.
Attending was New York State Senator George Amedore, New York Assemblymen Marc Butler and Angelo Santa Barbara. Jennifer Donovan, a representative from New York State Senator Hugh T. Farley’s office, offered congratulations on his behalf.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was in Washington, but Matt Scollin, regional director of her Glens Falls office, attended to offer her comments.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our local economy and I commend HFM BOCES for spearheading this important new program,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “I have visited numerous PTECH programs across our district and I am always impressed by the maturity and caliber of the students. The HFM BOCES program is no exception, and when I visited earlier this year, I was very impressed with their plans for this new agriculture initiative. I wish everyone the best of luck with this exciting new endeavor and look forward to working together on these important education and agriculture issues.”
SUNY Cobleskill is an education partner with Ag-PTECH, providing students the chance to earn an associate’s degree in one of nine majors. Provost Susan Zimmerman told the students that this year SUNY Cobleskill was marking its 100th anniversary, calling their celebration “A Century of Innovation.”
“I cannot think of a better way to enter our second century than to be part of this endeavor at HFM Ag-PTECH,” Zimmerman said.
However, the focus of the day was the students. Four were chosen to speak during the ceremony, while several others were paired as student ambassadors to guide tours throughout the building, answering questions about the non-traditional classrooms and program.
“Hello, my name is Zackary Reid, and I am from Fort Plain Jr./Sr. High School. I was super excited to hear about this program because I have grown up working on many different farms. I picked this school so I could have a college degree in a field I like. It is an honor to be one of the 51 kids [chosen] to get into this school.”
“Hello, my name is Hayden Casler. I am from Canajoharie Central School District. My grandpa was a third generation farmer from Fort Plain. I decided to come to this school because I want to learn everything there is about agriculture. We are partners with SUNY Cobleskill, and when I finish two years here, I want to go [to SUNY Cobleskill] to become a dairy nutritionist. I feel lucky to have been accepted to this program, and look forward to all the opportunities this will create.
Hello, my name is Madison Kilmartin. I am from Amsterdam and I do not come from a traditional agriculture background, but agriculture has had a major impact on my life. I have worked with many pet rescues and organizations. Many of the students here are not from a traditional agriculture background, but we all have one goal in common, to further our education. Some of us may love to work with animals, some love to garden. But whatever our passion is, we all look forward to the challenge at Ag-PTECH and the bright future we will have.”
“Hello, my name is Kristen Quist from Amsterdam. One of the biggest things about our school is Project Based Learning, or PBL. For me PBL is amazing. Instead of everyone getting a project and working independently, we work together to solve a problem. Our teachers choose our groups so we don’t get together with the same people over and over. The greatest part is that already in ninth grade we are pushed out of our comfort zones so that we are ready for the real world.”
The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Agriculture Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or Ag-PTECH, is a new model for high school education that includes college-level, credit-bearing coursework in the curriculum and allows students to choose their own “pathways” to high-skill jobs.
A consortium of HFM BOCES, its component school districts, Herkimer Community College, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, SUNY Cobleskill and 15 regional businesses was one of seven winners in the third round of New York State Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) partnership awards announced Nov. 6, 2015 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The grant funds a PTECH program that targets students who might not otherwise consider a college pathway, using a variety of demographic, academic and social indicators. The new school launched Sept. 7 in the former D. H. Robbins Elementary school in St. Johnsville with 50 ninth-grade students from the component school districts.
Ag-PTECH seeks to redefine secondary education with a curriculum that centers on project-based learning that will focus on skills in nine career clusters — agricultural business, agricultural science, agricultural engineering technology focused on power machinery, biological technology, sustainable crop production, animal industry, culinary arts, environmental studies and fisheries and wildlife technologies.
Through the program, selected students can earn one of nine different associate’s degrees at no cost to their families and will be considered for jobs with participating companies when they graduate.
Regional business partners are committed to serving as mentors for students throughout their Ag-PTECH career, meeting with them in person and by virtual communication, as well as guiding internships and putting Ag-PTECH graduates in line for jobs within their companies.
For more information about PTECH, contact Ag-PTECH Principal Kristy Shafer, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (518) 568-7023.
Fifteen businesses initially joined in the grant, committed to providing important mentoring and internship opportunities for students in the new PTECH. Today, more than 20 businesses are participating in the program. For more information about our business partnerships, contact Nicole Walrath, email@example.com, Business and Education Partnership Coordinator at (518) 568-7023 (Mondays and Wednesdays).
Learn more at www.hfmboces.org/programs-services/agptech/