UPPER MARLBORO – More than 60 students in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) are on track to graduate with more than just a high school diploma thanks to two additional dual enrollment programs added this school year.
The county school system’s official first day of school was Sept. 6 and with it brought the celebration of innovation and education. The school system celebrated the opening of a brand new high school, a renovated elementary school, the first-ever high school to host two P-Tech programs, and the launch of the 3D Scholars program.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS. “In this period of time when everybody talks about affordability of college – is it worth it and can you can the money that you need? – this is really ground breaking work. These are great opportunities for our children and that’s what new school years should be all about.”
In two separate ceremonies, the school system and a long list of partners, including County Executive Rushern Baker, III, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), Marriott and more, gathered to celebrate the beginning of the new programs.
The launch for the 3D scholars program, 3D meaning three degrees, was held at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale and capped off with a signing of a memorandum of understanding between PGCPS, PGCC and the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) to offer a select group of county high school students the opportunity to obtain their diploma, an associates and a four-year degree for less than $10,000. The program sets a clear path for students to transition from the county school system to PGCC to UMUC.
Eighteen students from around Prince George’s County are enrolled in the program and will pursue degrees in criminal justice, computer networks and cyber security, or business administration.
“The PG3D Scholarship program is college affordability on steroids,” said Maryland Sen. Jim Rosapepe, the author of Maryland’s early college law. “I asked UMUC, PGCC, and PGCPS to test a $10,000 BA – with no financial aid – because I think it can be taken to scale, making a bachelor’s degree affordable for thousands of Maryland students who are ready to start early and work hard."
Maxwell, Rosapepe, PGCC President Charlene Dukes, and UMUC President Javier Miyares all noted that an affordable college education is one of the top priorities of county educators of all levels. 3D Scholars is just one of the ways the school system and its partners are working to ensure that Prince George’s students have paths forward from high school.
“This scholarship program sends a powerful message to our students, to their families and to all of higher education that a future bright with promise depends on our ability to make opportunity accessible and affordable to all who have the will and desire to succeed,” Miyares said. “With our partners, we continue to light the way to broader horizons, brighter futures, and a world that is marked by learning, equality, prosperity and peace.”
Just a few hours later and a little more south in the county, Dukes and Maxwell met up again to celebrate the launch of the new P-Tech, which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, at Frederick Douglass High School. The school now offers two different P-Tech pathways, in Health Information Management, and Hospitality Services Management and is the first and only in the state to host two P-Tech programs under one roof.
“This is a phenomenal program and I want to thank Sen. Miller for making sure Prince George’s County was part of this,” Baker said. “This means our children will not only be graduating with a diploma but an associates degree in their business field and so that’s going to help them down the line.”
Baker said it is important for the county to look ahead in a child’s future and find ways to help families send their children to college in affordable ways. The 3D program and P-Tech are ways to keep debt down for county residents, he said. In addition, Maxwell said public education has become, and should be, about more than educating kids from kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s about making sure they become successful in the future, he believes.
“These are opportunities that we owe it to our children to provide,” he said. “We believe very strongly that our kids can do it.”
Maxwell said it took him and PGCPS a “good year” to get the P-tech program up and running after some initial conversations with Dukes and PGCC. The school system already has a strong relationship with the county community college through other dual enrollment programs, including the Academy of Health Sciences located at PGCC, and Maxwell said the two institutions were committed to making P-Tech happen.
“Every time there is an opportunity for a new idea to think very innovatively and creatively here in Prince George’s County, (Maxwell) calls me and he says ‘Charlene, I think we can do “x,y and z’” and that’s at the end of ‘a,b,c,d,e,f…’ and what the team at the college says all the time ‘is let’s sit down, lets think about it. I know that we can figure this out,’” Dukes said.
And all the work behind the program was worth it to the students, who on their first day of school were already making history and becoming leaders.
One of those students was Chloe Catrow, a Sentinel “Rising Star,” who said she joined the hospitality program because it will prepare her for life after high school and gives her the opportunity to help people in a career she is interested in.
“I enjoy helping people, I do,” she said. “I’m very grateful to have been chosen for this opportunity.”
As the new programs get underway, Baker couldn’t help but admit he was a little jealous of the opportunities in front of PGCPS’s brand new freshman class.
“I’m jealous that I didn’t have the opportunity to do the things that I see these young people going into now and I’m jealous that my children, who went through Prince George’s public school system, didn’t have these programs around when they were here,” he said. “But Dr. Maxwell said it best. This is about the children. We do all of this to make sure they have the opportunities that we didn’t have.”