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June 24, 2018

High schoolers get a ‘byte’ of the college experience

Sometimes an instructor or a class can change your life. That’s been the experience for nearly 60 high school students who’ve taken JCCC Adjunct Assistant Professor Phillip Hauptman’s computer applications courses at the Lawrence College and Career Center (LCCC).

The courses inspired students to look into education or job options they never before thought possible. Many of the students have gone on to enroll in JCCC. 

Real-world tech experience

Declan Oberzan, a high school junior in Lawrence, was interested in cybersecurity, but when he found out the instructor – whom the students call “Dr. Phil” – had worked in IT, the courses really piqued his interest. “This was the first computer class in which the teacher came from the field I want to go into,” Oberzan said. “He has actually done the things he talked about in class. That impressed me.”

For four semesters in Lawrence, JCCC has offered high school juniors and seniors college-level computer hardware and software courses designed to prepare them for the CompTIA A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association) certification, the industry standard for IT professionals. One of the opportunities of this program is that students can get their IT certification while still in high school. Oberzan plans to take the certification exam over the summer so he can work as a certified IT professional during his senior year.

Hauptman said many students entered the technology classes thinking they would be learning about gaming. They also didn’t have a well-defined idea of their future. “But by the end of two semesters, 90 percent of the students had decided what they want to do.”

Finding their strengths

Students spent approximately 10 hours each week in the CompTIA A+ classes, which are project-oriented and focused on skills students would need as IT professionals. Students enjoyed the opportunity to develop project ideas and then produce them. Three times each semester, they showcased their work for parents and guests.

Hauptman also helped students learn a little bit more about themselves and what they might do in the future by having them take the StrengthsFinder assessment. “That was eye-opening for many of them,” he said.

Hauptman met individually with students to learn about their goals and help them create a vision for their future. They talked about how to be successful in college, with tips on organization and how to manage and balance their work. Hauptman's desire was for them to have skills that would help them be successful beyond computers and technology.

The college experience in high school

“One of the biggest benefits of these classes is that they provide students with a ‘low-risk’ college experience,’” Hauptman said. “They get to take a college-level course at an inexpensive price while receiving high school credit.”

Patrick Kelly, LCCC’s Director of Innovative Learning, said he appreciates the flexibility and thoroughness that JCCC and Hauptman have put into the CompTIA A+ program at LCCC. “It’s very fulfilling to see a young man who might have developmental disabilities, for instance, leave this class with great confidence, knowing he’s completed a college course,” Kelly said.

Hauptman and Kelly have seen great success with some students who might have been challenged in a traditional high school environment. Because LCCC is more free-form, those students thrived with all of the hands-on opportunities.

One of the aspects Kelly and Hauptman didn’t expect was how the small group and one-on-one projects encouraged students to grow socially. According to Hauptman, “There are so many stories about students who had low social skills or lacked confidence when we started but completed these courses with their head held high. They saw themselves differently, saw they could succeed in a college class and setting.”

Your future in IT

If information technology is the direction you’re headed, you can take courses that will prepare you for the CompTIA A+ certification exam and other computer and technology certifications.

To learn more about the many computer and technology fields of study available to you, contact Carol Smith at 913-469-8500, ext. 3277.