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Energy Tech H.S. Principal Preps Students for College and Career

 Hope Barter, founding principal at Energy Tech High School in Long Island City.
Hope Barter, founding principal at Energy Tech High School in Long Island City.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — Students at the new Energy Tech High School in Queens aren't just earning their high school diplomas — they're getting a jump start on their college careers.

The school, which opened its doors at 36-41 28th St. in Long Island City in September, is one of just three in the city that offers a six-year program.

"The model is called 9-14," said Hope Barter, founding principal at the school that prepares students for careers in the growing energy field by allowing them to enroll in college-level courses such as electrical circuit theory, thermodynamics and programming.

After six years, students leave Energy Tech with their high school diploma as well as an associates degree in an engineering pathway, free of cost.

"Even better than that, every year of our program students are working on the high school course work, the college coursework, but they’re also working on career-readiness skills," Barter said.

"Things as simple as a handshake, all the way through a competitive resume and interview techniques, how to work as a team, how to work in kind of an executive setting, in a boardroom setting.

"So they’re leaving us with those kinds of work-ready skills and technical skills to go directly into entry-level, middle skill jobs — competitive wage employment."

The school opened this year with 120 ninth graders and is modeled on P-TECH, which the city opened in Brooklyn in 2011 through a partnership with the City University of New York, New York City College of Technology and IBM.

This summer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to open three more 9-14 schools at the start of the 2014 school year.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the idea behind Energy Tech High School.

A: It’s a full partnership between the City University of New York, specifically LaGuardia Community College right here in Long Island City, Con Edison, whose learning and development center is right here in Long Island City, and National Grid.

Our school has been planned from the ground up in collaboration with all of these different partners, and they continue to be a driving force, even in just day-to-day operations at the school — helping to advise on curriculum to make sure that what we’re doing here in the classroom is going to authentically prepare kids for the kind of jobs that are out there in the energy industry right now.

Q: What kind of jobs do those include?

A: It’s engineering pathways, so they’re middle-skill jobs, jobs like electrical technician or designer. We’re looking at a couple [of] different pathways right now, so students focus within their college studies on either electrical or mechanical [engineering].

These CTE/early college schools are focusing on parts of local industry that are growing at a really fast rate. We know that there are a lot of engineers that are retiring out of positions, and certain positions are being created within certain different sectors, like computer technology, energy, engineering, engineering technicians.

We’re really looking to provide students with that associates degree, the high school diploma and the work-readiness for them to be competitive in these emerging jobs, where there will be a lot of different and very lucrative career opportunities.

Q: Is your background in those fields?

A: My background is actually really different. I went into college thinking I was going to be a biology major, I wanted to be pre-med. I had a part-time job in college, I worked for this organization called Educate The Children.

Through my interest in that program I took some more coursework in sustainable development, ended up studying abroad in India and getting to see in the field what some of those schools and programs were achieving over there — doing a lot of work with family literacy, nutrition, agricultural research — I became inspired to come back here and get into education.

Both of my parents were former teachers, so those kinds of education conversations happened regularly around the dinner table.

Q: Are you from New York?

A: I’m from Maine. I went to Cornell, loved New York state — definitely didn’t want to leave, so I’ve been here ever since.

Q: What's your philosophy when it comes to education?

A: For every single student at our school to feel safe, to feel known and to feel valued.

It’s important for our students to deeply believe, and for all adults to deeply believe, that there are possibilities for every single one of our students here.

It’s also important for our students to learn by doing, through experience. And so it’s important to get our kids out there, meeting people, getting a sense of what this work looks like, and for us to make our classroom activities as real-world as possible.