“We give students opportunities to express creativity with their hands, rather than just their voice.”
~Tony Benoit, President of BFIT
In this edition of Catalysts for Change, we have two new and important acronyms to add to the alphabet soup of education jargon:
BFIT = the Benjamin Franklin Institute for Technology, an institution of higher education in Boston with a mission to prepare students for careers in technology fields. It also happens to have some of the strongest graduation and job placement rates in the city for first-generation college goers.
CTE = “Career and Technical Education,” which is a revamped and rebranded approach to vocational education that aims to make high school students career-ready with a seamless blend of coursework and internships that don’t compromise academic or professional rigor.
(If you’ve listened to our other podcasts, we’re guessing you already know what BPS is.)
Our guest this week is Tony Benoit, BFIT’s President. Tony is a true thought leader in our higher education community for what it takes to build an institution that is mapped backwards from the technical skills that are required to succeed in the workplace, while at the same time creating a welcoming and supportive culture for students who may not have seen themselves as “college material.” His team has accomplished these goals with courses and faculty that are deeply informed by the demands of local industries.
Just as importantly, BFIT has worked proactively to meet the holistic needs of their students--whether that’s offering meal vouchers, counseling, or lending out suits for interview days. They’ve also welcomed BPS high school students into their courses, tuition-free, for over a decade.
BPS has increasingly focused on giving students access to CTE experiences through internships and opportunities like the one that BFIT offers to take college courses while still in high school. The Career Pathways Working Group focused specifically on these goals, going so far as to suggest that one day all BPS middle and high school students could experience “a core set of activities that leads to each student finding their purpose and potential in order to become college, career, and life ready.”
There is much that the district can leverage from what has already been a successful dual enrollment partnership with BFIT. The question now is how to make such a partnership sustainable and scalable in the future.
That could be done through formalizing and expanding the existing BPS-BFIT relationship, which has been accomplished in other cities through programs with expertise in facilitating dual enrollment opportunities for low income students, such as the Gateway to College National Network. And it could also be done through gaining insights from people like Tony, who knows what it takes to engineer an environment built on purposeful learning and proactive student support, which is exactly the goal that we share for all of BPS’ high schools.