President Barack Obama visited a Brooklyn school Friday, where he urged students to strive for the best in their education in order to compete in an increasingly tech-driven global economy.
The president spoke in the auditorium of Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Crown Heights after visiting a math class.
In his State of the Union address in February, Obama mentioned the school, which is also known as P-TECH, and praised it for the way it prepares students for the working world.
"I wanted to come here ever since I talked about you in my State of the Union address this year, because what's going on here at P-TECH is outstanding, and I decided to see it for myself," Obama said Friday.
P-TECH's novel six-year program allows students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree and get first dibs on jobs at a company - in this case, IBM.
The school opened in 2011. Five more are planned for the city, and the model is already expanding rapidly, not just in the city but in Chicago and across New York State.
Without naming it, Obama referred to the Common Core Learning Standards in his speech, which New York has been one of the first states to implement.
Teachers union leaders, including national union president Randi Weingarten and local union president Michael Mulgrew, both of whom were in the room, have criticized New York State for moving too fast with those standards.
Speaking before the president, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out that P-TECH opened in a building of a old school the city is closing for poor performance, Robeson High.
"P-TECH would not even exist here were it not for the strong reform policy that the Obama administration has supported, and that's replacing failing schools with new ones," the mayor said.
Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio was also there for the president's remarks, and Obama promoted an idea at the center of de Blasio's education platform.
"We have to give every child an earlier start at success by making high-quality preschool available to every 4-year-old in America," Obama said.
The president has already endorsed de Blasio, and the two made a surprise stop at Junior's Cheesecake, where they picked up two cakes to go, and the president introduced the staff.
Students at P-TECH, especially the 16-year-old who introduced the president, said that they are now even more determined to prove their school deserves all the praise.
"It's really showing that all eyes are on us, and from this point, we need to keep on working hard and keep on going to new heights," one student said.
Meanwhile, parts of Prospect Park had to be closed off to accommodate the president's arrival.
Dozens of local police and secret service officers patrolled the northwest quadrant of the park before the president's helicopter landed.
The visit attracted many curious onlookers who tried to catch a glimpse of Obama, but some Prospect Park regulars were a little annoyed to have their routine disrupted.
"I'm willing to deal with it this one time," said one person. "I don't know. I feel like it's a pretty alright excuse for it."
"I'm definitely unhappy because I was going to eat my lunch and they closed off the benches," said another. "I mean, couldn't they just leave the benches so you could sit down, eat your lunch?"
"I thought it was a rare opportunity, too," said a third. "I mean, two blocks from my house. How could I not?"
"I say welcome to our president in Brooklyn," said a fourth. "He has never come to Brooklyn before, and we need to see him in Brooklyn more."
While the president may not make regular stops in the borough as commander-in-chief, he did say he once lived in a brownstone across from the park.