One week before he was supposed to start high school, Gabriel Rosa didn't have an acceptance letter from any school.
On Tuesday, he graduated with both a high school diploma and an associate degree in computer systems techology – in addition to having a job offer ready to go at IBM.
P-Tech, the school that helped him "grow out of the box that [he] was in", in his own words, is the first of its kind in the nation - possibly the world.
The Crown Heights school is based on a private-public partnership, with funding coming from the city but additional resources in the form of mentors and support coming from IBM. The New York City Department of Education, CUNY and the New York City College of Technology are partners along with IBM.
Part of the intent was to address a lack of diversity in STEM fields, and to give young people in under-served neighborhoods access to more possibilities in STEM education.
There are now 27 schools in the U.S., with a total of 40 expected to be open by the fall. The schools will have relationships with different companies. By 2016, the program could expand to 100 schools including one in Australia.
Students gain high school di plomas and associate degrees on an accelerated timeline – 4 years instead of 6 years – and have the opportunity to intern at IBM over the summers.
For some, that will turn into a job offer as soon as they graduate.
"How many 18-year-olds do you know who are going to work in a Fortune-500 company?" said Radcliffe Saddler, who will begin his career as a markets analyst at IBM.
Other students are going on to complete their undergraduate degrees – for some, they are the first to graduate high school in their families, let alone college.
The students say the school pushed them to work hard, but gave them opportunities they could not have otherwise accessed.
"The world out there is getting more competitive," said Rahat Mahmud, 17, who will graduate as valedictorian of his class. He's going on to study at Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, with a full tuition scholarship.