The University of New Hampshire is partnering with Pinkerton Academy in Derry to launch UNH First Step, a two-year pilot program that will allow Pinkerton juniors and seniors to simultaneously earn college credits for some courses.
“As the state’s flagship public university, we are committed to building partnerships that foster education at every age,” said Wayne Jones, UNH provost and vice president for academic affairs. “UNH First Step brings high school and college educators together with the shared goal to advance academic excellence and opportunity for New Hampshire students.”
Jones says they partnered with Pinkerton because of the quality of faculty and curricular offerings in many subjects, including communications and computer science.
Through UNH First Step, NH high school students can earn UNH credit in their high school computer science and communication arts courses. Pinkerton teachers have worked with faculty from UNH Manchester to develop courses that align high school learning activities with UNH academic rigor and expectations.
Mihaela Sabin, a professor of computer science at UNH Manchester, has been expanding computer science education in the state’s K-12 system. She says UNH First Step broadens participation in the college-level curriculum.
“Computing careers are in high demand in New Hampshire and nationally, so building computer science into the curriculum early on is crucial,” Sabin says, adding that computer science is now a core component of K-12 education thanks to a new 2018 law. “This collaboration not only improves the implementation of the new curricular standards but also supports and empowers students to learn computing skills that they can carry into their college and professional careers.”
UNH Manchester Dean Mike Decelle says expanding UNH First Step to more NH high schools could encourage students to go to college, particularly in NH. “Our ultimate goal is to make college more accessible to New Hampshire students,” Decelle says. “When students choose to stay here, they become part of the workforce engine that strengthens our state’s economy.”
According to a 2016 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 61 percent of NH high school grads leave the state to pursue four-year degrees. The key to lowering that statistic is building stronger pathways to the state’s post-secondary institutions, said NH Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.