Amazon Fulfillment Centers play a massive role in today’s shop-from-anywhere economy. As the company leads the way in reshaping the way we make purchases, much attention has gone into its business operations and expansion. Montgomery College’s Early College business students visited a center last month in Baltimore where they saw first-hand what it takes for Amazon to move an item from a computer screen to a front door.
“Many of the students have worked in the service industry. They know restaurants and retail,” said Professor John Coliton, who manages the business cohort at the Rockville Campus. “In class, we talk about managing in a big production environment. This trip was to show them a large production environment.”
As they progressed through the 1.2-million-square-foot BWI2 Fulfillment Center, students like Elissa Charles were engaged and asked questions.
“It was nice, the people were nice, and I learned a good amount that I didn’t know,” said Charles, a junior at Winston Churchill High School and freshman at Montgomery College. “I’m going to be thinking about that every time I order something from Amazon.”
Charles and her classmates watched as some of the 100s of robots moved inventory pods back and forth, how items moved through conveyors belts, and employees put packages together before shipping. Their Amazon tour guide, by pure coincidence, was Ian Allen-Anderson, a former MC Raptor—quite literally. Ian wore the “Monty” mascot suit for events as an MC student.
The Early College program, now in its second year, allows Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students in 11th and 12th grades to enroll at MC and get their high school diploma and associate’s degree at the same time. Of the 152 students enrolled in the program, 34 are pursuing an associate of arts in business and attending classes at the Rockville Campus, but as Early College mathematics and engineering majors.
Many of the students know restaurants and retail. This trip was to show them a large production environment
MCPS pays for all tuition and books for Early College students. It also covers MC fees for students who are FARMs (Free and Reduced Meals) eligible, which ensures that the program is accessible to all qualified students who wish to pursue it.
The students take all classes at the College every day. But courses accommodate their high school activities, as Coliton explains, typically concluding by 1 or 2 p.m. every day to allow students to play sports at their high school or partake in other extracurricular activities.
“We still want them to be high school students and have that option,” says Coliton.
Typically, Early College students remain committed to the program. Coliton said he did not have a single absent student for the first four weeks of classes.
“I think the students are excited,” he says. “I know they appreciate the college environment because it’s much different from high school.”
Charles, for one, has found it to be a great opportunity: “I like the program. It’s been really good for my mental health, and the workload is workable, achievable.”
Another benefit to students like Charles is the opportunity to meet like-minded students from other parts of the county; all MCPS high schools participate in the Early College program. Charles says she has made many new friends from surrounding areas. “It feels like a family.”
Coliton said he will continue to seek out experiential opportunities, such as the Amazon field trip, for the business cohort. “Hopefully we will be able to continue this, and once each semester put everybody on a bus, take them somewhere to see a production environment, a different kind of factory or business,” he said.