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September 13, 2009

Technical assistance Seton Students learning how to maintain, repair their school’s computers

By Michelle Martin


When Desmond Jones graduates from Seton Academy in South Holland and heads for college next year, he will have an impressive array of skills on his resume: He can clean personal computers of viruses, replace cracked screens on laptops and install new hardware.

He also can track inventory, handle shipping and receiving and supervise fellow workers.

He got those skills from working in Seton’s technology resource center, a onestop shop for students at the school who need help with their school-issued laptops.

“I have a high interest in computer technology,” said Jones, who plans to major in a tech-related field, although he is not sure exactly what. “I look forward to different ways and opportunities to increase my knowledge.”

Those opportunities grew exponentially three years ago, when Seton was the first high school in the archdiocese to incorporate technology by making the school entirely wireless-accessible and issuing each student an IBM/Lenovo laptop. Now most textbooks are downloaded onto student computers, and assignments generally are completed and e-mailed to the teachers.

Problem and solution

But with more than 300 teenagers carrying laptops around, there are bound to be problems.

That’s where the resource center, started by Steven Parker, comes in.

Parker, now the director of technology at the school, started by teaching students not only to make repairs to the laptops, but to do it as if they were part of a business, treating each student who comes in as a customer. That means greeting them with a smile, writing out job tickets and getting the work done promptly.

Those who are in the resource center class receive academic credit for it, but not just anyone can sign up. Students who want to be technicians must start by expressing an interest, and then volunteer on a regular basis after school. Then, when there are class openings, Parker fills them from among the volunteers.

“They have to demonstrate a commitment,” Parker said, adding that ideally, they would have taken the “Introduction to Computers” class first.

While the young technicians’ skills will make them among the most sought-after friends on their college campuses, Parker wants them to be even more marketable.

By the end of this year, he wants to see that at least a few of the most advanced students can get A-Plus Certification, an industry standard for entry-level computer technicians.

Earning potential

Seton Academy President Rick Hussman notes that the program is not run as a “vocational education” class. Students are expected to join their classmates in college, but they do so with some skills that can help them earn money while they are in school, and give them a leg up for jobs after college.

For Jones, that might mean running his own business, a project that would use many of the skills he had learned at Seton.

“I would encourage other people to do it,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of doors opening, and computer technology is only going to advance.”