Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Students stay late for popular computer class

BY Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Amber Wells, a junior at Simon Kenton High School, aspires to become a marine biologist or a naval aviator. If those career choices don't pan out, she'll rely on her training in switching, routing and computer networking.

        The intricacies of computer networks — or rather, how computers interface — is elementary knowledge for Amber ever since she enrolled in a new after-school program offered at Simon Kenton since January.

        Upon completion, she will be certified for a job in information technology and perhaps earn between $40,000 and $53,000 a year. But first, she wants to give college a try.

        “I'll always have this,” she said of her computer networking skills.

        Thirteen students from Simon Kenton and Scott high schools are enrolled in the networking program's first semester, which began in January. An application and teacher recommendations were the only requirements.

        There will be four semesters in all. The students meet for two hours, Monday through Thursday, learning how computer networks operate. For example, students have been taught all the steps a computer network goes through when an e-mail is sent and received.

        The students also have learned about hubs, which all networked computers are connected to; switches, which allow computers from different hubs to communicate; and routers, which are needed for networked computers to interface with computers outside the building.

        “Basically, there's just a whole lot of careers they could go into with this — virtually anything in the computer industry. And if they didn't want a big salary, they could teach,” joked Jim Justice, a geometry teacher by day who teaches the computer networking course after school.

        “It's a good grounding for college,” he said. “They're learning basic structures of computer networks and learning about rules computers use to talk to one another. It's just giving them more options. It's just opening doors for them.”

        Some students, such as Robert Pedersen, 17, have more than one computer at home and have used their class knowledge to network them, Mr. Justice said.

        Robert, a junior from Independence, loves his comput ers almost as much as he loves the trombone. He said he wants to learn how to market his parents' cabin in Wisconsin over the Internet, allowing computer users to sign up to rent it.

        Scott High School freshman Chris Noth, 15, of Covington, is thinking further ahead. He wants to use his training to get a decent job after high school and pay his way through college. He enjoys the training because it challenges him more than his other classes, he said.

        Nortel Networks of Ontario, Canada, founded the networking program. Vicki Fields, technology coordinator for Kenton County Schools, said the district became interested in offering it last summer. She noted that even if students can't take all four semesters while in high school, they could always pick up the remaining course work at local community colleges.

        “I'm real tickled,” she said. “The students are so driven to complete the curriculum. I can see that this will be a career for these students.”


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