This month, 44 Montgomery County students, from 19 different high schools, celebrated the completion of their senior year from Maryland’s first-ever academy dedicated to helping working students graduate and gain a head start on college and careers—TranZed Academy for Working Students. Guided by career coaches, TAWS’ unique program designs school schedules around the students’ jobs and goals.
TAWS was formed as a partnership between Montgomery County Public Schools and Maryland Chamber member University of Maryland University College and TranZed Apprenticeship Services, among others. TAWS offers seniors, who have jobs and are on track to graduate on time, career coaching and flexible class scheduling to complete high school without interfering with their jobs and career goals.
Students didn’t just graduate from high school, they earned college credits and passed Advanced Placement courses in calculus, English, literature and statistics. With an average GPA of 3.0, one-third of the students scoring more than a 3.5, they were accepted at top colleges including: University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland Baltimore County, George Washington, St. John’s and Julliard.
“We designed TAWS for the kids who’ve shown the initiative and work ethic to find and hold jobs,” said Duane Arbogast,chief of strategy and innovation at The Children’s Guild and TAWS founder. “Many of them want to work more hours and jumpstart their adult lives. TAWS helps them do both, while completing high school.”
With career plans ranging from nursing to master electricians to entrepreneurship, TAWS graduates will continue their education and training through colleges, apprenticeships and other on-the-job training, all with the support of TAWS’ alumni association and career coaches.
Tears, laughter and hugs were shared as students were individually honored. The graduates included students like Victor Reding, whose family immigrated from the Dominican Republic when he was a child. Reding worked 40 hours a week while earning his high school diploma. Also among the graduating class, was Roderick Dreher, whose brother was disabled in a tragic car accident and now works to assist his family, and working mother, Genesis Velasquez, who accepted her award with eight-month-old son, Jason, on her hip.
“Each student has a different story and TAWS is a chapter in it,” said Robyn Hart, instructional specialist, secondary school counseling, for Maryland County Public Schools. “Graduation is only the beginning; it is a stepping stone for future greatness.”
As the inaugural class looks ahead toward their futures, the TAWS program is also looking ahead, preparing for their incoming class of more than 60 students and priming for expansion elsewhere in Maryland.