She wasn’t going to pass.
Testing for an ICDL, a license noting she had mastered general computer functions, is the goal of the six-week technology class at the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, but sometimes there are too many challenges for some students to get there.
This young woman tried, but it sure seemed like she’d be one of the students who miss the mark. Female high school dropouts aren’t often thought as players in technology fields.
But then, she passed. And now, one year later, she’s at the Community College of Philadelphia, reaching even further.
Stephanie Virgo, a YouthBuild technology instructor who had those concerns about that student she liked, now sees that triumph as something of a lesson on how technology can challenge and motivate.
“We have students who have never used a computer before,” Virgo says. “It can be very empowering and help them pursue that post-secondary education. If you’re given a paper to write, that can be hard. If you’re given that paper and you don’t know how to use a computer, it’s a whole ‘nother challenge.”
YouthBuild is a one-year, nonprofit program designed for high-school dropouts to offer job-training and based on a national model. The Philadelphia chapter, founded in 1992 and one of 226 chapters nationally, is on North Broad Street above Girard. Students get a high school diploma and real, applicable job skills.
The school, with 200 students yearly, offers a popular construction sequence, which gained a degree of notoriety for leading a sustainable home building project on the National Mall in D.C. in March, in addition to a nursing program and the technology coursework.
The six-week tech class features twelve students engrossed in computer maintenance and use for eight hours a day, led by Virgo, who is in her second and final year at YouthBuild as a AmeriCorps staffer, along with another instructor, Julia Hillengas.
As with the mission of YouthBuild, time is split between vocation and education and classes are small and targeted.
Often students will be taught to refurbish donated computers, cloning the software, clearing the harddrive and putting it all back together. This year, Virgo says the class has been devoted to restoring a computer lab to be used for future training and general Web surfing and computing. Other times students will learn basic programs like Microsoft Office.
“It about opening up to see what’s out there,” says Virgo, who has a programming background, went to school in Indiana and hopes to continue her work in adult education in Philadelphia. “So they can make real choices.”
YouthBuild does rely on donations. If you’d like to make a contribution use the Network for Good system — designating “Friends of YouthBuild Philadelphia” in your online donation form — or mail a check to Friends of YouthBuild Philadelphia, 1231 North Broad Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19122.