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VP-TECH students get off to adventurous summer start at Herkimer BOCES

Aug. 1, 2019

VP-TECH students outside flying drones

Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School students fly drones outside Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES on Wednesday, July 10, as part of the VP-TECH summer bridge program. For many more photos from the Summer Bridge Program, visit us on Facebook at

HERKIMER – Flying drones and going zip-lining are two ways new Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School students from various Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES component school districts were able to bond with each other this summer.

VP-TECH student Ariana Ellis, of Central Valley, said the summer bridge program helps students prepare to start their school year together in the fall.

“It’s been fun because we’ve done things that we don’t get to do every day, and we get to know each other and become friends with each other just through everything we’ve done together this week,” she said.

VP-TECH launched in the 2015-16 school year with ninth-graders from Herkimer BOCES component school districts. Another class of ninth-graders has joined each year since, so the group joining for the 2019-20 school year is the fifth class of ninth-graders.

The summer bridge program is a chance for the incoming ninth-graders to learn about their school, teachers and peers for a few days. The program took place from July 8-11 this year.

VP-TECH focuses on technology, project-based learning and real-world work situations. Students can spend four to six years in the program to earn a Regents diploma, an associate degree in quality assurance from Herkimer College for free, a certification in advanced manufacturing and connections with local businesses.

This year’s summer bridge program included a special community-based activity each day:

·         Monday, July 8: Jim McCoy, Indium Corporation talent acquisition supervisor, visited VP-TECH to speak with students about the connections they will make between their experiences in the classroom and workplace opportunities.

·         Tuesday, July 9: Students went zip-lining and did a ropes course at Root Farm Adventures in Sauquoit.

·         Wednesday, July 10: Jon Ashdown, from Adept Advancements Inc., visited VP-TECH to teach students about drones, practice with a drone simulator and then try flying professional drones.

·         Thursday, July 11: Students visited A&P Master Images in Utica, where they made VP-TECH shirts and discussed the quality assurance aspects of the work.

VP-TECH Coordinator Danielle Monahan said the summer bridge program is helpful for the new VP-TECH students.

“It’s a nice opportunity for them to meet their new classmates, as they all come obviously from different school districts,” she said. “It’s like a meet and greet type of thing to get everybody comfortable with each other. We work on a lot of team-building activities, hands-on activities and fieldtrips.”

The summer bridge program also included touring the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex and the VP-TECH classrooms, learning about the VP-TECH program and Herkimer College quality assurance program, filling out paperwork for College Now courses through Herkimer College and participating in icebreakers to find out more about each other and their teachers.

“They’ll be spending the next four to six years with these guys,” Monahan said. “It’s nice to see the relationships form.”

Three older VP-TECH students also attended the summer bridge program to support the efforts and share their personal experiences. They participated in a panel discussion, and the new students were able to ask them questions about what they wanted to know such as the teachers, the courses and the workload.

“It means more to hear from their peers,” Monahan said.

The older students were Marietta Altieri, of Herkimer, who will be a senior this school year, and Leilani Tyson, of West Canada Valley, and Jaeden Coffey, of Frankfort-Schuyler, who will be a sophomore this school year.

Midway through the day students were learning about and trying out drones, Monahan said it seemed to be a positive experience for students.

“I think they’re getting the hang of it,” she said.

Ariana said she enjoyed flying the drones.

“They’re like really cool, and they’re really high tech,” Ariana said. “It’s really cool that we can fly a drone that’s a professional drone and not just a plastic one you can buy at Walmart or something.”

New VP-TECH student Dominick Hutchins, of Herkimer, said some of his favorite parts of the week were going zip-lining and flying the drones.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Very fun.”

Dominick thought the summer bridge program was helpful for learning how everything works around the school, discovering what activities the students will be doing and becoming more familiar with the other students.

“It’s pretty good to know everybody,” he said.

Participating in the summer bridge program will make the transition much smoother for the first day of school in September, Dominick said.

“It’s going to be really easy to get into it,” he said.

A drone flying outside Herkimer BOCES

Drones flown by Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School students hover around outside Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES on Wednesday, July 10, as part of the VP-TECH summer bridge program. For many more photos from the Summer Bridge Program, visit us on Facebook at