STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Port Richmond High School will be host to a “transformative” six-year program offering students pathways to some of Staten Island’s most important industries, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President James Oddo announced recently.
Since 2018, Oddo has worked to bring the Island a full Pathways to Technology Early College (P-TECH) program that offers high school students the opportunity to attain a high school diploma, a tuition-free associate degree and hands-on work experience.
Port Richmond students will receive the associate degree from the College of Staten Island in either computer sciences or liberal sciences and have a link to careers in healthcare and information technology, Oddo said during a “City Hall in Your Borough” media briefing last week.
“This program is such a win for the young people of Port Richmond,” Oddo said. “We are getting these kids, these young people, ready for jobs in healthcare and tech, which happened to be two growing fields. That’s where the jobs are.”
P-TECH launched at Port Richmond high school in the fall of 2020, but the program lacked the industry partners that offer students work opportunities. Each of the other boroughs is already host to such a high school.
Two industry leaders — Northwell Health, the parent company of Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), and Sun River Health, which oversees Community Health Action Staten Island (CHASI) — are partnering with the city to make the program a full reality.
SIUH Senior Director of Community Health Frank Morisano said Tuesday that details of the plan are still being finalized, and that the hospital expects to be seeing students in the school by September, 2022.
Morisano said SIUH wanted to get involved in the program as part of Dr. Brahim Ardolic’s goal of becoming a destination employer for Staten Island’s young people. Ardolic is the hospital’s executive director.
“We want to be the employer of choice on Staten Island and we want to keep local talent,” Morisano said. “We want to keep the best and the brightest of kids on Staten Island.”
Six staff members at the hospital, including Morisano, and two employees of the broader Northwell system, have been engaged in the partnership process, and will offer students opportunities like internships and mentoring programs.
Students will also be introduced to hospital jobs that otherwise they might never have had access to or been aware of, Morisano said, adding that positions like certified nursing assistant, occupational therapist, and radiological technician are possibilities.
Computer sciences opportunities offered through the P-TECH program were a particular focus for Morisano, who said not much can get done in a modern hospital without a computer.
“Most kids think that a hospital is (just) doctors and nurses,” Morisano said. “There’s so much else that makes a hospital work, and we want to introduce the P-TECH students to that.”
Diane Arneth, the executive director of CHASI and Sun River’s chief community services officer, said that in addition to helping the students, the program would also help CHASI offer more comprehensive services.
CHASI’s work focuses on things like substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS services. Arneth said their work often brings them into economically poorer communities of color.
According to data for the 2019-2020 school year from the New York State Education Department, Port Richmond is made up predominantly of Black and Latino students, and 78% are considered economically disadvantaged.
“One of the reasons we were really attracted to this project is because this project will serve, largely, Black and brown students,” she said. “Disparities in health that we deal with all the time in our work — that one of the ways that we can really address them in meaningful ways is to make sure the work force represents the communities that are affected.”
Oddo said his advocacy for the program dated back to 2018, and credited his office’s director of public policy, Isaac Gorodetski, for his persistence on the issue.
During last week’s media briefing, de Blasio expressed optimism for what the program would bring to the students at Port Richmond High School.
“Great careers ahead. Great opportunity ahead,” the mayor said. “The children of Staten Island are going to benefit from this incredible idea, coming to Staten Island for the first time.”