New Initiative in Hamden Helps Students Prepare for Life After High School - NBC Connecticut

New Initiative in Hamden Helps Students Prepare for Life After High School

HECA is a collaborative initiative of Hamden Public Schools, Gateway Community College, and the New Haven Manufacturing Association where students have a chance to earn industry certifications

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    Students at the grand opening ceremony of Hamden High STEAM Academy.

    Go. Ned Lamont along with other school leaders came together for the grand opening ceremony of Hamden High STEAM Academy and a celebration of a new initiative to prepare students for life outside high school.

    HECA is a collaborative initiative of Hamden Public Schools, Gateway Community College, and the New Haven Manufacturing Association where students will not only learn valuable workforce skills, but they have the chance to earn industry certifications of an associate degree concurrently with their high school diplomas.

    The state of Connecticut provided initial program funding for the project.

    The first cohort of HECA students has already begun preliminary classwork, and will be in attendance at the ceremony. Other state and local officials, leaders form the business community and from higher education will also be in attendance. The program is for students who live in Hamden but leaders are hoping to expand in the future.

    Elijah Diggs is participating in the academy and says it’s the perfect program to prepare for life beyond Hamden High.

    “This program will help me be able to find a career in the future,” said Diggs. “I like engineering and I also like math and now I’ll have the opportunity to develop both those skills and prepare for the workforce.”

    Diggs, along with other students, is getting a chance to learn the ins and outs of science, technology, engineering and math.

    Even Diggs’ mother wants in on the action.

    “At my age, I’m like do you think they’ll take parents in this program, I want to sign up,” said Lonnette Diggs. “For my son to have an opportunity where he knows that he’s interested in this career path is a win-win situation.”

    As part of HECA, students will have the opportunity to earn industry certifications.

    After leaving Hamden High, HECA students can move right into the workforce or continue their education with up to two years of college credit already earned and paid for. The goal is to cut half the cost of a four-year degree for students and their families.

    Daniel Cocchiola is the coordinator of Counseling and Career Pathways at Hamden Public Schools.

    “I think this may be a model that other schools may see as a valuable there,” said Cocchiola. “Some kids are going to get the associates degree, I hope they all do.”

    Cocchiola says it’s a great opportunity for kids but the workload is rigorous.

    “This program requires high-end math skills, it requires calculus in high school, it requires 31 high school credits and 68 college credits,” said Cocchiola. “It’s a marathon and it’s a hard one where kids are going to have to push through.”

    HECA skill development will focus on manufacturing engineering, an area of great need in the Connecticut workforce.

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