During the 10th annual Tech Impact luncheon — held on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia — Janelle Jackson, a help desk analyst with the Delaware Department of Technology and Information, shared her story.
“I felt trapped in customer service and sales and didn’t know the way out,” said Jackson, who participated in Tech Impact’s ITWorks program in 2013. “I’m happy to have stability in my life now. On Oct. 24, I lost my father. But I had to come and share today about how important ITWorks was in my life.”
ITWorks is a 16-week program — in Philadelphia and Delaware — for high school graduates ages 18 to 26. Students receive professional certification in IT and experience real world internships throughout the region.
At the annual awards luncheon, numerous ITWorks students past and present attended and gave Jackson a standing ovation after her remarks.
This fall, students participating in ITWorks are interning at Christiana Care, Capital One, the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Girl Scouts, Goodwill, Prestige Academy, the University of Delaware and the Latin American Community Center, said ITWorks instructor Alix Davis Cummin.
“It’s an opportunity for people to come into the classroom — some with similar backgrounds — and for students to see possibility, what they did to get to where they are now,” Davis Cummin said. “It gives them a sense of direction and students start to explore.”
The process, she added, is competitive. In the program’s three-year history, 150 students have graduated.
“Many students prefer hands-on learning, not traditional college. The program is free to those students,” Davis Cummin said. “We want those students who will give back to the community and who will recognize the opportunity presented to them.”
This fall, Ben Williams, 18, will be interning with Tech Impact as a SharePoint intern. He found out about the program through his neighbor, a Tech Impact staffer.
“I’ve been around computers forever, both of my parents are in IT. I have a huge interest in it, but never had any formal schooling,” Williams said. “I’m just learning as much as I can trying to get my hands dirty with technical work.”
The luncheon featured guest speakers and award presentations. Three local leaders were honored for their dedication to Tech Impact, the ITWorks program and the community.
Barbara Chang was honored with the community impact award; David Silverstein was honored with the volunteer impact award; Sue Kozik was honored with the founders award.
“When you do something you love, you don’t expect to be honored when you’re doing it,” said Kozik, the executive VP and CEO of Group Healthcare Cooperative.
From 2011 to 2014, Kozik served as CIO of Independence Blue Cross. A former intern of hers — who went through the ITWorks program — was present at the luncheon. She told the story of the time, two years ago, when he came into her office to tell her that she changed his life.
“It really reminds me of the impact we can have on others,” Kozik said.
The event ended with a keynote address from Carla Markell, the First Lady of Delaware. She told the story of a young boy she mentored and his older friend. The friend, Markell said during her speech, had a hard time getting along with others and was often shy and nervous.
When she found out he was interested in computers, she connected him with the ITWorks team. The transformation in the young man, Markell said, was nearly instantaneous, and now he works full-time at WSFS Bank.
“He’s so proud of who he’s becoming and other kids know he’s the one that has made it,” Markell said. “He feels confident, he feels successful, he feels accountable. He’s got this incredible sense of hope that he did not have two years ago.”