Back on track

High school dropouts can earn their GEDs while gaining experience in IT at Project WOW’s new IT Track.

Some people struggle to figure out what they are doing in a computer lab.

For students of JEVS Human Services’ new IT track, it’s much easier. They built the computer lab.

JEVS recently introduced the IT track to its Project WOW program, which allows 18- to 24-year-old high school dropouts to pursue their GED while learning about technology.

The program provides students with hands-on opportunity to repair common technological mishaps, like broken phone screens and unresponsive computers. They also built not one, but two functional computer labs at Orleans Technical College, where the program is taught.

“Students were able to learn how to not only work for an employer but also how to do stuff on their own and make extra money doing things on their own, basically being entrepreneurs,” said instructor Adolphus Johnson.

The recent cohort for the six-month program concluded class last week with its students prepared for the next step.

“Without this program I would be home doing nothing right now,” said Cheyenne Corter, a 19-year-old who just finished the program and earned her GED about a month ago. Corter found out she was pregnant when she was 16 and dropped out of high school and moved, so completing the program was as much for her daughter as it was for herself.

“So many people talked me down and said you can’t do this, you’ll never be anything in life, and my father was one of those people,” she said. “I liked that I finished this so I can rub it in his face, and everybody’s face.”

Corter will come back to JEVS to complete the pre-apprenticeship program, which will include three more months of class and two months of paid internships.

Maisha, another student in the program, is completing an internship at Ape Tek, a technology repair company. Once the internship is up, she’ll be brought on staff part time. For Maisha, it’s a welcome change of pace from the steady stream of dead-end jobs she’s been working for the past five years.

“The support has been amazing and one of the things I lacked when I was in school,” said Maisha, who dropped out when she was 18. “I have nothing but a blank page ahead.” She was interested in IT since she took a coding class in high school, which she picked up quickly. Her ultimate goal is to eventually open up her own business.

They are currently recruiting for the second cohort of the pre-apprenticeship program. Cost of entry is free for those who qualify. For more information, visit jevshumanservices.org/program/it-pre-apprenticeship/.