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Fenway High School, Dearborn STEM Academy, UMass Boston, and Franklin Cummings Tech to Begin Historic Partnership in 2023-2024 School Year

BOSTONMonday, March 13, 2023 – Boston Public Schools continues to expand early-college opportunities and career pathways for students with the launch of a Year 13 pilot program at Fenway High School, in partnership with UMass Boston; and the STEM Tech Career Academy at Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury, a program funded by a state grant, in partnership with Franklin Cummings Tech, formerly the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. These five- and six-year programs seamlessly blend the high- school and post-secondary experience to allow students to earn their high school diploma and post-secondary credentials at no cost. 

Mayor Michelle Wu officially announced the Fenway High School program Jan. 25 during her State of the City address.

"We're building an education system to match our role as the academic capital of the world—taking every step to ensure our kids have the skills and experience to meet this moment," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "This program will give our students an additional full year of college-level courses debt-free as they transition to college and accelerate toward a degree."

Fenway High School and UMass Boston will deepen their existing Early College partnership by piloting a Year 13, which will allow Fenway seniors to remain in high school for an additional year to continue their college coursework at UMass Boston completely for free, while still having access to much needed academic, social, and emotional support staff, ultimately completing their first two years of postsecondary education for free.

The STEM Tech Career Academy at Dearborn STEM Academy will significantly expand access to higher education and Boston’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) economy for marginalized students. STEM Tech Career Academies are six-year programs that enable high school students to earn associate's degrees and industry-recognized credentials in key STEM fields, including manufacturing, IT, and environmental and life sciences.

"These partnerships are a shining example of what can be achieved when post-secondary, business and philanthropic institutions come together as a village to support BPS and our students," said Superintendent Mary Skipper. "Expanding early college and career pathways across BPS is a key part of our strategy. We’re eager to work with school leaders and our partners to expand BPS' Early College programs at the Dearborn STEM Academy in partnership with Franklin Cummings Tech and Fenway High School in collaboration with UMass Boston. We are immensely grateful to the Smith Family Foundation, State Street Foundation, Mayor Wu, and the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College for their generous contributions and advocacy, which will have a lasting impact on the educational outcomes of Boston’s students."

This programming builds on last year's pledge, under Mayor Wu's leadership, to drastically expand early college and career pathways across secondary schools. Enrollment in Early College and Career Pathways programs has increased 29% since the 2020 school year, with the largest increases in participation in Innovation and Early College Pathways.

"Early college programming addresses some of the financial and socio-emotional issues that prevent some young people from achieving class mobility through education," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. "Supporting students in familiar environments as they begin taking college-level courses is an innovation that will help our District meet some of the biggest challenges of education in the 21st century. Early college programming not only provides students with the opportunity to gain college credits and experience, but also helps to build their confidence and resilience. By providing a supportive environment that encourages exploration and growth, we can help our students reach their full potential."

These landmark partnerships come after years of advocacy and work from countless partners across the city. City Councilor Michael Flaherty has prioritized programs that offer a Year 13 program during his tenure.

"The vision for Year 13 is, and always has been, about providing all of our students with the resources they need to close the achievement gap and thrive in a global and innovative economy," said Councilor Flaherty. "We boast of the best colleges and universities in the world, but yet not enough of our Boston Public School graduates are able to get into those institutions. Year 13 will be a game changer while getting them an extra year of instruction and exposure to college courses and career pathways."

The Year 13 program accompanies a joint BPS and UMass Boston initiative to expand early college access to BPS students. Numerous studies show that Early College programs reduce the time it takes to receive a degree, reduce the cost, and minimize the systemic barriers many students face in higher education while dramatically increasing graduation rates and equitable outcomes for students.

"UMass Boston is committed to expanding access to higher education, particularly to those who face systemic barriers to succeeding in college," said UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. "This partnership and support will open doors and opportunities for first-generation students, students of color, those facing economic challenges, and many others."

"For 15 years, Franklin Cummings Tech has honed early college delivery models that catapult college degree attainment and unlock career paths that build generational wealth," said Franklin Cummings Tech President & CEO Dr. Aisha Francis. "We appreciate the Commonwealth Executive Office of Education for investing in this partnership to boost our future workforce by providing expanded access to early college education for BPS students."

Administrators at BPS and the school leaders at Fenway High School and Dearborn STEM Academy see these expanded programs as a way to enhance the high school and college experience for countless students in their respective schools.

"Our role is to be that connective tissue with higher education partners to be a more holistic experience for our students," said Ted Lombardi, Secondary Superintendent for college, career, and life readiness. "The Year 13 and STEM Tech Career Academy are two important innovations at BPS. They will bridge these two crucial phases of life for our students and make the transition as easy as possible."

Fenway High School and Dearborn STEM Academy school leaders are largely optimistic about the programs because of how this program will cut the cost of tuition for college, which is a barrier to many of their students.

"As we all know, the cost of college is skyrocketing," said Dearborn STEM Academy Head of School Darlene Marcano. "This program will alleviate so much of the financial burden on our students and give them the opportunity to go to college at an affordable price while still taking advantage of the love and support we offer here at BPS."

Early College programs have been shown to boost college completion rates for low-income, minority, and first-generation college students. For example, since the Massachusetts Early College initiative launched in 2018, students who’ve participated in early college programs have been found to complete their applications for federal financial aid and enroll in college at significantly higher rates than their peers. 

"The theory, in action, is to kind of blur the lines between high school and college," said Fenway High School Head of School Geoff Walker. "So they can experience college in a supportive setting. This will be a great program for our students and we cannot wait to start."