Students work on PCs in computer camp

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SPENCER — In just a few short hours, Ryan Smith can get a dead as a doornail computer up and running.
A rising junior at Davie High School, Smith has been part of the Students in Training (SIT) program for almost six years.
The nonprofit organization, run primarly through grants from the Woodson Foundation, provides technology training to local students.
“We teach everything from front door welcoming to sales out the back door,” Michele Smith, a member of SIT’s board of trustees, said. “We teach them business skills, professional skills, receptionist skills, computer skills.”
Michele Smith said through the program, students train their peers to do everything from rebuilding and refurbishing computers to running diagnostics and removing viruses.
Each summer, SIT offers week-long technology camps to students from local middle and high schools.
After completing the camp, students are allowed to volunteer at the SIT shop after school, answering phones and doing computer repairs.
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Program Director Barry Hawkins works with the students each day during camp and throughout the school year.
“We teach them how to think, how to solve problems and how to use their resources,” he said. “It’s a joy because you know that you are instilling something in them that is going to take them further in life than anything they can learn.”
Hawkins, who has business and information systems degrees from Catawba College, said the students are usually receptive to the information he throws at them, picking it up quickly and going to work.
Students who participate in the camp have the opportunity to take one of the desktops they refurbish home if they don’t already have a computer.
Hawkins said SIT works closely with the Communities in Schools at North Rowan Middle and North High, to identify students who need the computers.
“This is an empowerment tool,” Hawkins said. “For a teenager to be the one who brings that computer into the home for the rest of the family to use is great for self empowerment, it makes them proud.”
Extra computers are donated to members of the community without computers.
“This is teaching them to be servants to the community,” Hawkins said.
And Hawkins said the program also encourages students to get good grades.
“We let them know that Cs aren’t all right,” he said. “This is the place for great minds. We want the next Edison, Einstein or Beethoven.
“We want them to come here and come out writing their own ticket in life.”
Hawkins said he’s always looking for adult volunteers to help lend a hand.
Tony Meece of Rockwell travels to Spencer a couple times each week to offer his expertise.
“I see these kids and I see so much potential and I want to be part of teaching them how to do things the right way,” he said.
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Ryan Smith said being part of Students in Training has taught him how to be a leader.
“It’s easier teaching (my peers) than teaching an adult because I can relate to them,” he said.
Smith said working on computers has become a hobby that he’ll likely carry with him the rest of his life. He works closely with Hawkins and other students to do low cost repairs.
“I like computer repair and troubleshooting because you have to figure out different problems,” he said. “It’s kind of like a big puzzle.”
Montee McNeil, a rising eighth-grader at North Middle, said the program has taught him how to pay attention to detail.
“I knew a little bit about computers before I started, but now I can build one from the ground up,” he said.
Tiara Hoover, a rising eighth-grader at North, said she’s also enjoyed learning how to troubleshoot.
“If my computer is messed up I know how to fix it,” she said.
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Students in Training also serves as a recycling hub for electronics ranging from cell phones to laptops.
The program recycled 27,000 pounds of e-waste last school year.
And Michele Smith said the program wants your old computers.
“We are hoping that instead of people throwing them away they will bring them to us,” she said.
A new state law that takes effect Friday will ban computers and computer-related equipments from landfills.
People can drop off items from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the office at 514 South Salisbury Ave., Spencer. To arrange for pick up call 704-754-4123.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.