Juan Osorio considers himself living proof that early college high school works.
It's hard to argue: The Colombia native came to New York City at 14 years old, speaking little English and thrust into a traditional public school where the bar was set too low. It threatened to curb the momentum of his education.
That was then. Today, Juan is close to earning his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rutgers University. He traces the roots of that success to his time at Bard High School Early College, a Smart Scholars program with campuses in Queens and Manhattan. Once he transferred into Bard, Juan says that his school experience improved dramatically.
"For the first time since being in the U.S., I felt that I fit in and that I was actually learning more than simply improving my English," Juan says. "We were also able to choose our own classes to fulfill our requirements and this is how I discovered that I had a real talent for mathematics and science."
Yesterday, Juan shared his story with the state's Education Reform Commission. During a public hearing at Bank Street College, Juan asked the group to spotlight early college programs when it presents Gov. Andrew Cuomo with recommendations for school improvement. Juan's remarks were met with applause from the crowd.
"I hope that you will consider my experience and help make early colleges available to more students across New York State," he said. "I urge you to include the expansion of early colleges as one of your key recommendations to the governor for improving educational opportunities in New York State."
Another Bard graduate, Aishah Scott, attended the hearing to support Juan. A Brooklyn native, Aishah finished high school in 2005 with a complete associate degree. That meant Aishah could enter college ahead of the curve, academically and financially. Simply put: Bard made her college dreams an affordable reality.
Today she is pursuing a Ph.D. in American History at Stony Brook University.
These stories are inspiring. Now, we hope the commission and Gov. Cuomo will help give rise to even more by supporting the early college high school initiative. Read Juan's complete testimony, and click here to learn more about our early college high school advocacy.