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TEC-SMART students are on the cutting edge

April 3, 2014

LED 4 - student bMonday through Friday, high school senior Clark Leonelli gets in his car at 6:55 a.m., picks up a classmate and heads to the Hudson Valley Community College’s TEC-SMART campus, located at the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park in Malta next to GlobalFoundries.

Leonelli is one of four students from South High currently participating in the Clean Technologies & Sustainable Industries Early College High School (ECHS), a program that prepares students for college and careers in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced technology, including semi-conductor manufacturing. It is run by Ballston Spa Central School District in collaboration with HVCC and open to students from around the Capital Region.

“I’m hoping to go into a career in biotechnology,” said Leonelli, as he nears the end of his second year in the program.

The program’s mission is to develop and support pathways to higher education that lead to careers in STEM fields for high school students through academic programming and a collaborative learning approach. Next year the program will be available for students in grades nine through 12, and students will be able to graduate from high school and simultaneously earn credit towards an associate’s degree.

Leonelli described his coursework as “hands-on and project-based learning.” Recently, he has been learning about LED lights, trying to understand why they are more efficient. For the culminating project, he expects to write a business plan showing the energy savings these lights could provide with a cost-savings analysis. A project like this incorporates science, English and math.

He especially enjoys the collaborative nature of the program and said one of the highlights of each day is seeing buses and students coming from around the region every day to participate.

“It’s a great collaboration of ideas that we all have,” Leonelli said, adding the he likes the feeling that his teachers are “partners” with the students.

“The innovative learning environment at TEC-SMART allows our students to seamlessly transition into college programs that ultimately lead to careers in STEM fields,” said South High Guidance Counselor Stephanie Erwin.

Leonelli is planning to graduate this spring and hopes to attend SUNY Cobleskill, and eventually complete his degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy to work in the field of biotechnology.

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