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Program Offers Head Start on College Courses

Three Pennsylvania College of Technology freshmen are the first students to enroll with credits earned from Penn College electronics courses taught by their high school teachers. In January 2003, the College received funding from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to create a project that would link high schools to colleges, said Dr. Jeannette L. Fraser, director of Outreach for K-12 at Penn College. The program, known to high schools as NanoTrek, gives students the opportunity to earn 15 unchallenged college credits at the high school level.

John T. Lipko, Mifflinburg, a 2004 graduate of SUN Area Career and Technology Center, earned 12 credits from Penn College electronics courses he took in high school. He came to Penn College, but opted not to accept the credits. Instead, he is taking the courses again on campus in hopes of starting his college career with a high grade-point average.

“I feel I have a wonderful head start and large advantage over many other students in my classes,” Lipko said. “Not accepting the credits enabled me to focus more on my tougher subject: math.”

Jacob D. Rubendall, Winfield, also a SUN Area Career and Technology Center graduate, received 15 credits and is taking second-semester courses during his first semester on campus.

The program was implemented at area high schools last year. While most high school students will be offered the 15 credits over two years, students from SUN Area Career and Technology Center were able to take the NanoTrek courses full time in their senior year.

A third student, Timothy M. Snyder, Lock Haven, a graduate of Central Mountain High School, transferred to the Information Technology-Security Specialist major at Penn College with eight credits from the NanoTrek program and three credits from Advanced Placement.

Teachers at participating high schools report to Penn College, where they are trained to teach the College’s courses using the same books and laboratory activities that Penn College faculty use.

The high school students come to campus four times during each course to take the final exam and other major tests, which are graded by Penn College faculty.

If the students who passed the NanoTrek courses with a “C” or better in high school then enroll in Penn College, they may use those credits toward their degree without taking any additional tests.

“They are guaranteed to get those credits when they get to Penn College, and that’s what makes this program different,” Dr. Fraser said.

“The program is an awesome chance at saving some money and getting done with college early,” Lipko said. “The only thing you need is people who are willing and interested in electronics to give it a try.”

Dr. Fraser said the 15 credits that students may take in high school include 12 credits in the Electronics Program and three credits for an introductory computer course that all Penn College associate- and bachelor-degree students are required to take.

“We also made sure the equipment used at the high schools was comparable to the equipment used at the College, and, where it wasn’t, we used the grant funding to purchase equipment for the high school,” Dr. Fraser said.

In addition, Penn College Electronics students travel to the high schools to mentor students in the NanoTrek program. Dr. Fraser said each high school teacher uses the student mentor differently. In one school, when the teacher is absent and the certified substitute teacher is not familiar with electronics, the mentor works with the substitute to lead the class. Another student mentor wrote better instructions to replace the ones that had been provided with a project kit the high school students were using.

Students are enrolled in the NanoTrek electronics program at five area schools this fall: three students in Jersey Shore Area School District; 17 in Keystone Central School District; four in SUN Area Career and Technology Center; six in State College Area School District; and two in the Lycoming Career and Technology Center. One NanoTrek student from Lycoming CTC is taking electronics courses on the Penn College campus.

Students from East Lycoming, Loyalsock Township, Montoursville Area, Muncy, South Williamsport Area and Warrior Run school districts are offered NanoTrek courses through the Lycoming Career and Technology Center.

Through the SUN Area Career and Technology Center, NanoTrek courses are offered to students from Shikellamy, Selinsgrove, Midd-West, Lewisburg Area and Mifflinburg Area school districts.

The NanoTrek program is also offered at Montgomery Area School District. Williamsport Area School District plans to begin offering the program next year, Dr. Fraser said.

Penn College also offers a NanoTrek program for information technology. The information technology program is offered at the Sullivan County and Milton Area school districts, as well as the same school districts that participate in the Electronics Program.

In addition to making courses available in high schools, Penn College offers free Saturday camps to any student from the school districts involved in the NanoTrek program. It offers career exploration for students entering 10th-12th grades in both electronics and information technology.

Dr. Fraser said students in the NanoTrek program are also encouraged to apply for New Economy Technology Scholarships made available through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Graduates of Pennsylvania high schools who study in an approved science or technology field are eligible. After graduation, recipients must work in Pennsylvania one year for each year they earned a scholarship.

Upon completion of bachelor’s degrees in the information technology and electronics programs, students are encouraged to enroll in the Nanofabrication Technology competency credential at Penn College. The students spend an 18-hour semester at Penn State’s Center for Nanofabrication Education and Utilization at Innovation Park in State College.

For more information about the NanoTrek program, call (570) 320-8003 or e-mail the Outreach K-12 office.

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