Before Jonathan Lewis arrived at NJIT to study biomedical engineering, he had already earned five college credits — two after completing the university’s Management 190 course and three after finishing its Fundamentals of Engineering and Design 101. He was then a student at St. Benedict’s Prep, participating in the Center for Pre-College Programs’ (CPCP) Academy College Courses for High School Students.

The program is designed for high-achieving high school students in grades 11 and 12 who want to earn up to eight college credits per semester. Small classes meet on campus on Saturdays during the academic year and weekdays during the summer.

Lewis had previously been enrolled in CPCP’s IChIME program, which introduces post-seventh and post-eighth-graders to chemical, industrial and mechanical engineering. When he was searching for opportunities to fill his summer following 10th grade, he and his mother returned to the CPCP website, learned about Academy College Courses and promptly sent in his application.

“What I liked most about the Academy programs was the independence. … If you chose not to pay attention in class, you were responsible for the bad grades you got,” he remembered, noting of the teaching assistants (TA), “They helped you understand the work, but they didn’t hold your hand. … Long story short, you were treated like an adult, a real college student.”

NJIT's Center for Pre-College Programs offers an array of programs to stimulate STEM learning and promote pathways to college.

Lewis grew up in the South Ward of Newark, the younger of two boys (his brother will graduate after this fall semester from NJIT), and spent his formative years engaging in a range of pastimes, from playing baseball and practicing karate to working out logic puzzles and writing poetry and fiction. He also developed a keen interest in computer technology, teaching himself a variety of programming languages and honing his ability to solve tech issues.

But he elected to become a biomechanical engineer, swayed by the medical-field experiences of his grandmother, an EEG technician, and his father, a medical technician. Specifically, Lewis wants to design nano-robotics to help fight infections and tumors.

Now a junior at NJIT, he credits the Academy program with helping him both prepare for college as well as choose to study at the university. “I can definitely say that coming to NJIT [for pre-college programs] was an important factor when I was deciding what school to go to. The familiarity I had developed with the campus was important to me.”

Giving back is as well. For the past three summers, Lewis has been a TA for CPCP’s Early College Preparatory Programs.

“When I was in the program, I had a great TA, Mike, who for me exemplified the perfect TA,” said Lewis. “When I talked to [CPCP’s] Ana Cortina at the end of my last year in the Academy and she told me that I could apply to be a TA for the summer after I graduated, I jumped at the chance to help make the experience that was so instrumental for me possible for another group of students.”