Teens Get The Tech Lowdown

New York high school students have a hands-on experience at the help desk.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 26, 2002

2 Min Read

Help-desk professionals don't have it easy, spending their days fielding calls from disgruntled users. But at Park East High School in East Harlem, N.Y., the students running the help desk are the sweethearts of the school.

"We got roses for Valentine's Day," says Iskhnarine Suedass, a senior at Park East and group leader of the Mouse Squad help-desk team.

Mouse, which stands for Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education, is a nonprofit group funded by businesses and government agencies that works with 13 high schools and middle schools in New York City to set up student-run help desks.

The six-person Mouse Squad at Park East, which includes four boys and two girls, has been installing software and repairing and updating computers throughout the school for three months. To learn those jobs, students participated in three-day training sessions run by Mouse to learn about help-desk operations, how to run a request-for-services system, and how to communicate with the school's faculty as users.

Some program members (from left, Amer Mohsen, Conteh, Concepcion, Suedass, Harry Singh, and Melissa Baez) are thinking of IT jobs.

The Mouse organization has been testing the help-desk training program for the past year and plans to expand it this fall to 30 schools in all five New York boroughs. It's also developing a research effort called Tech Source to provide statistical research on technology-use in New York schools, says Anne Shiva, Mouse's senior director of strategic planning and development.

Mouse also offers job "shadowing" and technology-certification classes. In May, students will participate in a weeklong program at investment firm Salomon Smith Barney, where they'll work alongside help-desk professionals to listen in on calls and solve computer snafus. Mouse also will begin offering computer-service technician certification courses for Mouse Squad students in July.

Adama Conteh, a 10th grader at Park East, got introduced to technology through Mouse Squad. "When I was back home in Sierra Leone, I never had access to a computer," she says. Now, Conteh boasts of fixing memory problems and updating computers. Conteh aspires to become a doctor, but other members of the team are using the Mouse Squad as a steppingstone to IT careers.

Alex Concepcion, 16, who counts installing Linux on an older machine as his latest achievement, wants to be a computer programmer. And group leader Suedass, a 17-year-old from Guyana, plans to be an entrepreneur and launch a computer-maintenance company this summer and a graphic-design company later on. Says Suedass, "I'm mostly into the hands-on, get-inside-of-the-computer kind of job."

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