Wilson Magnet Youth Apprenticeship Program at RIT Celebrates 10 years

Students showcase computer and networking skills through work-scholar program

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Michelle Cometa

As part of the reception for the Wilson Magnet Youth Apprenticeship Program, students led their families on a tour of the Information and Technology Services offices and lab areas where they work. Learning more about the computer networking facilities that ITS managers were Tempest Sampson, left; her parents Cheryl and Ronald Sampson; and Elliot Williams’ parents, Teresa Johnson and Allen Williams.

As part of the Wilson Magnet Youth Apprenticeship Program at Rochester Institute of Technology, Elliot Williams, Demetrik Dodd and Tempest Sampson get more than a broad view of the role information technology plays in organizations. Working alongside the professionals in RIT’s Information and Technology Services department, these students got to be a big part of that organization.

The three Wilson Magnet High School students showed off some of the skills they acquired as apprentices during a reception for program participants that their parents and sponsors held March 16 at RIT.

“This program really is more than the work,” says Charles Hall, RIT desktop support analyst and supervisor to the apprentices. “We want to help them make this a step beyond their school work and support their efforts.”

The Wilson Magnet Youth Apprenticeship Program was piloted nearly 10 years ago. Students come into the program as high school juniors and work in Information and Technology Services desktop operations, ResNet and on network communications teams on a rotational basis. The program requires a two-year commitment and 1,200 hours of service. At the end of the two years the students make formal presentations about their work, such as creating a procedural improvement or documenting information about their role on a department project, to get credit for the apprenticeship.

At the program reception, Williams described his work with the desktop staff, helping to configure new employees’ computers and providing maintenance support. Sampson walked guests through one of the Help Desk processes and described how customers’ computer problems are routed to support teams. Dodd shared information about his work in ResNet, the residential computing team, troubleshooting viruses and hardware problems.

Supervisors in RIT Information and Technology Services and at Wilson Magnet say the students in the apprenticeship program have some of the highest grades and are exceptional workers.

“Academics come first,” says Steve Skidmore, the School-to-Work coordinator at Wilson Magnet, who monitors the students, ensuring that they complete classroom and work assignments. He adds that each of the students in the apprenticeship program is involved in multiple activities in addition to work and classes.

“ITS is very flexible,” says Williams about balancing school, work and activities. Sampson and Dodd agree. Outside of the classroom, Williams is a golfer and participant on the Wilson Magnet FIRST Robotics team, the X-Cats. Sampson and Dodd are multi-sport athletes.

Support for the Wilson Magnet Youth Apprenticeship Program is provided by the RIT Office of the President, the chief information officer and Information and Technology Services. Since the program’s inception, several of the apprentices enrolled at RIT after graduating from high school. Dodd was recently accepted and will start classes this fall.