‘Education pioneers’: R.I. Ed. Commissioner meets with local PTECH students (Newport Daily News)

NEWPORT — A 16-year-old boy sat in the front row of Community College of Rhode Island professor John Mowry’s classroom and learned cybersecurity skills like how to keep hackers out of his computer.

“I’ve been at five schools in five years,” Wyatt Polasek of Tiverton said. “This is definitely an improvement.”

Polasek is a student in the Newport Area Career and Technical Center’s PTECH program. The Pathways of Technology Early College High School (PTECH) is a technology-driven course with a focus on cybersecurity; students in the program have an opportunity to simultaneously earn their high school diplomas and an associate’s degree in cybersecurity. They take classes at CCRI twice a week.

Ken Wagner, state education commissioner, sat in on a class comprised of both PTECH and CCRI students on Tuesday morning. His visit came on the heels of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s issuance of a proclamation on Monday related to educational and economical development in the STEAM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, art and math.

The governor and state agency leaders are visiting establishments across the state to tout the programs that will support the growth of STEAM disciplines.

“You’re studying something that really, really matters in so many different ways,” Wagner told the students.

He visited the classroom to get a sense of what the students are learning and to promote awareness of STEAM work, he said.

“You’re our education pioneers,” Wagner said. “Schools have finite and not infinite resources,” and increased efficiency translates to programs like PTECH, which gives students flexibility and freedom.

Eli Weininger, 17, a PTECH student, said he learns in his PTECH coursework skills he couldn’t learn in a “regular class in high school.” Like Polasek, he hopes to enroll in a four-year college after he’s completed his PTECH studies. Weininger’s dream job is to work in game design.

Meg Geoghegan