It’s back to school in cities and towns across the state, and a popular program entering its second year at Windham High School is giving students a leg up.
The program is called ECO, where students take college level courses in manufacturing earning a valuable experience and even an associate’s degree.
Tenth grade student Natalia Perez is involved in the program and recalled the challenges she encountered working with her team to build a prosthetic leg as part of the ECO program coursework.
“We had to actually make the leg work and you have to be able to walk with it,” Perez said.
The program launched at Windham High last fall and continues this school year. The goal of the program is simple, said Howard Jenkins, human resources manager with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
“It was actually about team development, communication and working as a team to come up with their own design,” Jenkins said.
If students in ECO excel, they can earn not only their high school degree, but leave with an associate’s degree at no cost to students or their families.
Throughout the year, the program is supported through grants, district funds, and other in-kind donations.
"We're really giving students the opportunity for employment,” Jenkins said.
Perez said she isn’t sold on being an engineer, saying “I’m still starting out high school so I don't know what I want to do when I get older but at least, now, manufacturing is a legitimate option.”
Her mom said she has already begun seeing major changes in her daughter’s behavior.
“More talkative, she's more excited for things that come up in school like what's going to be next,” said Lilliam Perez.
Superintendent Patricia Garcia says ECO was built to develop students' technology skills and prepare them to be leaders, in addition to scholars.
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