Leyden High School students take on tech support
Angel Vazquez (right) and Frankie Rojas work on a repair project with computer support assistant Luis Cotto (left) as part of the West Leyden tech internship program. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:10PM
NORTHLAKE — A teenage girl wearing jeans and a red blouse walked into the tech support room at West Leyden High School last week.
She gestured to her laptop computer.
“When I close it, it just stays on,” she told a teenage boy about her age at a desk near the door. The boy pressed some keys and closed the laptop a couple times.
“There it goes,” he said. The girl thanked him and walked out.
In August, Leyden High School District 212 bought 3,300 Chromebook computers and distributed one to each student. Even brand new computers, however, sometimes go wrong. They get dropped or the software doesn’t work or the user has a question.
District 212 decided students should be the first line of defense when it comes to malfunctioning machines. So it created a Technical Support Internship class at each campus.
At West Leyden, most of the action takes place at a large table in the center of the room. Last week, several students were replacing broken computer screens. Among them was Joel Diaz, a senior wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and checkered pants.
Like all the students in the tech support class, Diaz underwent a two-day training during the summer, although he’s always been a go-to guy for computer problems.
“Like my whole family,” Diaz said. “Even now I get called by my aunt. Can you fix this or cancel my Netflix or something.”
He also designed an app that allows people to access several parts of the school website on smartphones.
The class is about more than repair. Each student — there are six to eight per class — takes on a project or works toward a certification recognized by employers. Diaz enrolled for a certification.
“If you get A+ certified, I heard you could get some pretty decent jobs,” Diaz said.
On one side of the room, senior Angelica Michalan updated the school’s athletic web page with photos, game results, rosters and other information.
“I’m really interested in sports things,” Michalan said. “I create video for sports awards each term.”
Once enrolled in the Technical Support Internship course, it’s hard to get away.
“Everyone knows you’re in TSI,” Michalan said. “Even teachers, when they need help, they would ask.”
Between 60 and 65 students stop by each day asking for help, teacher Tony Pecucci said. A teacher and a technical support employee oversee student efforts, but otherwise try to stay out of the way.
“We train the students not to come to us yet,” Pecucci said. “We encourage them to work with their peers first.”
As students gain experience, Pecucci expects the number of adults involved might shrink. But not the number of students. There were more students who applied this first term than there were openings.
Among those who were accepted was junior Jack Kielian. Last week, he was working on a desktop computer, making plans to film a presentation by a librarian that he planned to edit and post on a school website. He wants to re-enroll in the course next term and earn a computer certification.
“In the future, everything is going to be tech related,” Kielian said. “Knowing about technology makes me feel safe (about being employed).”