94 students are making history as the first class of the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA).
Aidan Coimin is one of those 94 students. "It's exciting. It's a good opportunity," he said.
"I'm very excited because it's a great opportunity to get all this free education," said Erin Aymerich, another NECA student, sharing in her classmates excitement.
The academy is based on the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) model and is the first in the state of Connecticut.
Karen Amaker, NECA Director said, "It's a really nice partnership. When people come together and say students deserve a quality educational opportunity, this is the result of that. You have the State Department of Education Board of Regions, you have Norwalk Community College, IBM, and Norwalk Public Schools all coming together to say that this is what education reform looks like and students are the benefactors of that."
Created by IBM, NECA is "school within a school" where students will earn their high school diploma from Norwalk High School, as well as an Associate in Applied Science degree from Norwalk Community College.
"It's really an exciting opportunity to partner with IBM who has given us a list of the skils they are looking for in terms of entry-level employees," said Tom Duffy, Chair of the Comupter Science department at Norwalk Community College. "We try to match the curriculum to the skills, provide it to the students so when they leave us, they are ready to be productive members of society."
Grace Suh, a manager with IBM Coporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs said, "We are going to be involved in every aspect of the schools development. We are going to be taking the lead over much of the career readiness part. We are going to make sure every student has an IBM mentor, we are going to be taking them to IBM locations so they can see what real work site are like, we will be bringing speakers to the school and eventually when the kids are ready, they will be engaged in skills based paid internships."
Thursday students participated in a hand-on activity with representatives from IBM making bridges out of marshmallows, graham crackers and other sweet materials.
"My dream college would be MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology - and I've always wanted to be an engineer, it's just something that has always interested me so this is really going to help me down that path," said Aymerich.
"I've always had an interest in technology and this is a great opportunity to have a better life and a better job in the future," said Coimin.
"The students are really at the forefront of this opportunity and saying this is really good for us, this is really good for Norwalk, this is really good for the state of Connecticut and they are showing us that they are ready for the challenge," added Amaker.