LAUREL – When the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation proposed the charter for Chesapeake Math and IT (CMIT) North, it set the goal of having a 100 percent graduation and college acceptance rate.
Now, with the school’s first-ever graduating class, that goal has already been met.
“It is really exciting,” said Mehmet Gunes, principal at CMIT North. “To see that when we started, we had only sixth and seventh graders, it was really small, and every year we have added new grade levels. It’s really exciting to see how the program has grown and we have our first graduates.”
This Tuesday, at Laurel High School, CMIT celebrated its first-ever graduating class in a small commencement with some big name guests such as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III. The event was a historic one as the first public charter school in the county said goodbye to the first round of students to ever enter its doors.
Those students started at CMIT as the school was in its infancy. The charter school opened in 2011 as a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM)-focused middle school. That first year it only accepted sixth and seventh grade students and it continued to grow with that first class of 300 students, said Mark Sutherland, the community partnerships director at Chesapeake.
“Public charter schools were created to give parents an option,” he said, explaining the STEM-focus of the school. “Our institutions are getting more and more competitive globally and students, if they’re going to succeed, they need an extra foot in the door.”
The school is now 732 strong with grades six through 12 and a brand new high school building set to open in August, just in time for the new school year. For the 2017-2019 school year, Gunes anticipates the school’s enrollment at 950 total students.
CMIT opened specifically to meet the need for STEM-based education in the region. Sutherland said the school exists to give parents in the county more choices. Gunes and Sutherland both said there is a number of curriculum and program decisions that set CMIT apart from other schools in Prince George’s County, but it is perhaps the charter’s hard focus on STEM college and career paths that really make it different.
“Our school specifically saw a STEM focus as a solution to not only an option for parents to choose, in terms of education, but also a way to get your student to learn the fundamentals that are necessary and missing at the college entry level,” Sutherland said.
In addition to the regular school hours, CMIT has extensive before and after-school programs, Saturday programs and a number of partnerships with companies that come in to teach students coding, engineering and even robotics.
Now, with 100 percent of the first class set to graduate, Sutherland said the power of the STEM-focused program is not an anomaly. It also was not an accident, said college counselor Ferhat Avsar, explaining how the school’s faculty work year-long to provide college and career supports.
This first graduating class is not only all graduating, but all 67 of them are going to a college or university. The seniors were accepted to more than 80 colleges and collectively raked in more than $6 million in scholarships to universities like Johns Hopkins, Rutgers University, Ohio State, Georgetown, Penn State and the University of Maryland system. Ten of those 67 graduates are also leaving high school with an associate’s degree.
“When I came to this county, the big thing was a 100 percent graduation rate,” Avsar said. “And we thought what might be our addition to the county and the students in this area and it was not only 100 percent graduating rate, but also 100 percent college acceptance. It is exciting that we’re hitting that in our first graduating year.”