December 11, 2016

by Suzanne Laurent

PORTSMOUTH – Reece Carolan and Jeffrey Pitts have the chance to earn 12 computer science credits from Great Bay Community College – without leaving their high school.

Both are Portsmouth High School students planning to study computer science in college. They are participating in a new computer science pathway program, through funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

The 12 credits students earn while in high school, taught by GBCC faculty, can be applied to a 24-credit certificate program in computer programming or a 34-credit certificate in software development. Those credits can then apply toward a 67-credit associate degree in computer technologies.

“We’ve been piloting the program over the last two years,” said Diana Canada, director of career and technology education at Portsmouth High School.

“The NHCF funding provided textbooks and the cost of the dual-enrollment, paying the fee for Great Bay Community College for the first four semesters.”

Ten students signed up for courses last year, and this semester there are 13 students. The courses offered in what is called a “running start” program are Object Oriented programming, Introduction to Python, Web Development 1 and Introduction to JAVA.

Running start courses earn both high school and college credits.

Two of the classes are taught at Portsmouth High by GBCC professor Meg Prescott. Two other classes are offered online, also taught by Prescott.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week Prescott hosted an “Hour of Code” at the PHS Career Tech Center during lunch break to get more students interested in the program.

She and some of her students from GBCC set up laptops and iPads to show how simple it was to begin to learn coding in an hour. Canada said about 30 students participated.

This was in conjunction with National Coding Week. All the schools in the Portsmouth School District participated in Coding Week.

“Next year, we hope to hire a computer science teacher,” Canada said. “The students who choose to be in the running start classes will pay a small fee of $150 per semester. This is considerably less than the cost of a class at Great Bay.”

An agreement is in the works to allow those credits to transfer to a degree in computer science at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester.

Other colleges will also accept the credits. Students could potentially start work after earning the certificate, and then take advantage of an employer’s tuition reimbursement program to complete their degrees.

NHCF helped launch this and other pathways throughout the state to help students get the education they need and help build the workforce of tomorrow.

Demographic trends point to a decrease in the state’s working-age population while available jobs are projected to increase.

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) present some of the greatest opportunity. Also, to get more girls engaged, NHCF is making available four $2,500 scholarships for young women who want to complete this pathway.

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