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March 31, 2010

Learning on the job

Greater Clark high school students learn technology through co-op class

CLARK COUNTY — Charlestown High School senior Dustin Crawford loves computers. He even calls himself a “nerd.”

So, when Greater Clark County Schools announced a new class this semester, where students would serve as technology interns, get high school credit and get paid, he eagerly signed on.

“I love this. This is really awesome,” the 18-year-old said without hesitation as he installed a Dell computer in a lab at New Washington Elementary School on Tuesday. “It gets students into the work force and into the field and lets us see what it would be like to work in this field.”

Seven high school students from Charlestown and Jeffersonville are split into two groups, meeting every day from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at various sites in the district.

Instead of going to their last class for the day, those in Career Exploration Internship head to that day’s site to get to work. They set up computer labs, install software, troubleshoot and more.

Each day, students are led by one of the district’s technicians, with the information technology support manager, Scott Stewart, as well as classroom supervising teacher, Nick Wiese, stopping by to make sure things are going well.

Stewart admits that he was hesitant when he was first told about the then-proposed program.

“We are all IT people. We are not educators, so it’s a new experience for us,” he said. “Dealing with students on this level is different that we usually do, but it’s been really cool.”

Wiese said students are getting the real-life treatment, after going through a rigorous interview process to secure a spot in the class. Wiese and Stewart said that’s necessary because students have access to the network similar to other computer technicians in the district.

“They have a lot of privilege and access,” Wiese said. “We wanted to make sure we have the right kids in this program.”

For now, the students are helping the district get computer labs set up at various schools in the area. However, that doesn’t mean the program will end once that task is accomplished.

“After this year, they can be service technicians and do service calls, even into the community and businesses too,” Wiese said.

He said he hopes to keep the class at that same “manageable” size, adding that will help ensure the students are the best of the best.

As the district benefits from this program, students said it’s helping them as well.

“It’s awesome, especially with it being my senior year and being bogged down with scholarship information and being here, earning some extra cash, it’s a really good opportunity,” 17-year-old McKenzie Price said.

CHS junior Aaron Fielding said he was sure that directing films was the only career he wanted. Now, he’s considering having a minor in this field as well.

“I want to be a movie director, but if that doesn’t work out, I would love to do something like this,” the 17-year-old said. “I didn’t think this would affect me that much. I thought it would be fun and cool, but I did not expect it to be that much of an interest for me.”

“It’s definitely encouraged me,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to be in this field before I took this class and now I have my foot in the door and I am sure this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

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