13 Aug Joint Venture Trains Minority Students for IT Careers
MADISON – Watch out baby boomers, those 8th graders can talk the talk. Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash are all on their curriculum at the tender age of 13, thanks to a program that prepares students for IT-related careers.
The Information Technology Academy (ITA), a joint venture of UW-Madison Division of Information Technology (DoIT) and the university’s PEOPLE Program (Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence), is a pre-college technology access and training program for talented students of color and economically disadvantaged youth residing in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The students receive four years of training in preparation for IT-related careers and academic support for assistance in qualifying for UW-Madison admissions in four years.
“ITA is a college prep program for minority students, and it’s really cool. We get a computer, a printer, internet access, and a scholarship to the UW Madison. We learn all about computers, and most of it is really fun,” said Natalie Gandolfo, ITA student.
The Best of the Best
Each year, ITA competitively recruits 15 students in their final semester of 8th grade to participate in the program. Selected students receive four years of intensive training in preparation for IT-related careers in addition to intensive academic support in preparation for competitive university admissions and study. The Academy’s dual focus on academic excellence and technological literacy prepares promising students for learning and leadership in the 21st-century digital age.
Through hands-on training, mentoring, leadership development, community service, and internship opportunities, ITA students develop the knowledge and skills to increase their access to technology while gaining skills and experiences as future leaders and professionals.
“The students who come into our program receive technology training in a variety of areas so they work towards their certification in hardware. They also receive the use of a computer, internet connection, and a printer during the four years that they’re in the program, so we’re hoping to close the digital divide a little bit by doing that by providing computers to students who might not normally be able to have one at home” said Erica Rosch, ITA Program Coordinator. “We provide academic skills training so we’re working on study skills and standardized test preparation and other things that will help them to explore the college experience.”
In addition to the technology and academic education, the ITA Mentoring Program, with the assistance of UW graduate and undergraduate student volunteers, assists ITA students in meeting and maintaining high academic standards. This program matches students with UW professional staff who will further support, encourage, and guide the students during the course of the program.
ITA is one of only five information technology outreach programs for high school students in the State of Wisconsin, and the only program of its kind and scope in the Madison area. It has won support from the Evjue Foundation and the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools for the 2003 – 04 year program.
Planning of ITA was initiated by DoIT in the Spring of 1999 in response to the University of Wisconsin System Plan 2008, a comprehensive blueprint to increase and expand diversity and educational opportunity within the University’s 26 statewide institutions.
Plan 2008 emphasizes the increased recruitment and retention of four student populations in the State of Wisconsin — African American, American Indian, Latino/Hispanic, and Southeast Asian — who are currently underrepresented in their enrollment representation within the UW-System, and are disproportionately represented among the state’s economically and educationally disadvantaged.
“Through the ITA I’ve learned many things. So far I have learned how to use two different applications: Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Not only have I learned how to use a computer but also I’ve learned on how to take it apart. I am very proud to say that I will be able to reach my goals, knowing now that I can count on ITA!” said Stephanie Herrera, ITA student.
Jamie Lyn Hofmeister is a freelance technology writer and regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.