Nov. 30—A free 12-week online course, learning skills in high demand in the high-tech sector. Access to experts in the field of computer science.
And a laptop students can keep upon completion of the program, free of charge.
"It's what you call a no-brainer," said West High School Principal Rick Dichard. "There aren't many of them in education these days, but this is one of them.
Representatives from NH Digital Equity and PlanITROI — which buys and refurbishes computer laptops — were in Manchester on Tuesday to deliver laptops for students, 10 at West High School and 10 at Parkside middle school — who are participating in the city school district's new student tech training program.
The Manchester School District is funding this National Collaborative for Digital Equity (NCDE) initiative, with additional financial support from a consortium of local banks and a credit union.
NCDE provides technical assistance and policy education in support of digital equity for economic and educational inclusion. The organization's goal is to support efforts to eliminate the digital divide as a barrier to economic and educational opportunity.
Dr. Robert McLaughlin, Executive Director of NCDE, and Mary Ford, the organization's Director of Inclusive Career Pathways, said they plan on learning "with and from" Manchester students over the next 12 weeks.
"The thought of doing this really came about when Bob and I realized not only did not all students have devices they need to learn, but they also don't have the tech support needed," said Ford.
McLaughlin said one of the concerns raised when speaking to officials in Manchester was the need for more "multi-lingual tech support capacity."
"You represent so many different languages that you bring to school here, and that's a tremendous asset," said McLaughlin. "But the district really needed more capacity to reach out to families that might not be native English speakers. We're really hoping you (students) can lead the charge."
Students who participate will learn skills to identify computer hardware, software features and understand functions; use One Drive and Google Drive as a management tool; complete basic activities using ZOOM, Windows 10 and the Microsoft Office Suite applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel; and learn basic troubleshooting techniques while acquiring basic computer skills and competencies in using Windows-based operating systems, Outlook, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphic.
Learning new — actually, old — systems are what interested several of the students in the program.
"I was mainly interested in learning tech support," said Vick Mahindru, a sophomore at West. "There's tech classes here, but they only cover a short majority like Google Slides, Google Docs, but what interests me is learning about Windows and Windows operation."
"I have no knowledge of Windows at all," said Joseph Mooradian, also a sophomore. "I know Linux but nothing about Windows and I think it would be a good learning experience."
Olivia Page-Howe, a senior at West, said she's always had an interest in computers and "helping my family with their technology problems."
"I'm also interested in pursuing a career in computer science in college so I thought this would be a good learning experience for me," said Page-Howe.
Upon successful completion of the course, students will earn NCDE Digital Opportunity Leadership Badges, which will be recognized by the NH Tech Alliance. NHTA and NCDE are working to identify ways to connect students with living wage jobs in the high-tech industry.
"We are also exploring the possibility of earning early college credit with Manchester Community College," said McLaughlin.
"You guys are sort of the table setters on this," Dichard told students. "If you guys are a successful cohort, I'm pretty sure I can convince the people in the room that we should do this for any kid that wants to do it, especially when it will result in a credential for you. This is a pretty cool opportunity."
Students will use refurbished PlanITROI laptop computers for the duration of the course. Upon completion of the program, the students will be given the laptops free of charge.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said the program will be beneficial for the entire school community to hear feedback at the end of the 12-week program.
"It was very exciting for me to hear that they would be providing opportunities to do things in different languages," said Craig. "Students in the district will be able to get more out of the support we have in place at the schools. I'm grateful for the opportunity."
"It gives these students an opportunity to be not only put on a career path, but also on a trajectory to understanding a technology field they may not have been exposed to," said Supt. of Schools John Goldhardt. "To peak their interest in computer science and technology and build a skill set for the future."