(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Richard Racks recalled working retail and call center jobs.
“I was ready for a change in my life,” the 23-year-old from West Baltimore said. “I was ready for a change in the life of those around me.”
Racks was among 40 students who graduated as a member of the latest cohort of the nonprofit Year Up Baltimore’s programming on a recent Friday at Baltimore City Community College.
As they finished, a class of 80 students stood up who are now in the program, doubling the number of students it serves in Baltimore. The Boston-based organization has had a presence here since 2010.
"It allows them in one year to have access to opportunity they wouldn't have."
The students, who are ages 18-24, go through six months of classes that prepare them for the workforce. They wear business attire, and get specific skills in IT, cybersecurity and business operations. Then, they get a chance to get experience with internships. In both the classes and internships, they get paid through a stipend.
For 24-year-old Amonee Randolph, the program was a path into business and IT after completing a pharmacy tech program.
“It allows them in one year to have access to opportunity they wouldn’t have,” said Duane O. Reid, Jr., site director for Year Up Baltimore.
ETC-based startup Point3 Security was among the organizations helping to prepare the students in the most recent cohort. CEO Evan Dornbush and security researcher John Foster donated time as guest instructors in several courses.
“We’re all about trying to give people the skills to break into this industry,” said Foster. “This industry is hard to get into and the skillset is hard to learn.”
After going through Year Up’s programming, Racks was set to start a cybersecurity internship at Exelon in downtown Baltimore. They’re one of the businesses that partners with Year Up. For many, there’s a need for employees in IT and cybersecurity.
Racks studied IT in high school, but said learning more deeply about cybersecurity was “eye-opening.”
“Just about anything that’s computer-based, someone can get into it,” he said.
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