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Students Learn Computer Repair
Skills and Build a Future

Technology Center

The Virtual High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers students a computer repair program that benefits students at all grade levels. The Cyberstars program teaches high school students to repair, test, install, and service used computers. For a small fee, the computers are then installed at city elementary and middle schools. Virtual High School principal Dr. Steven Hawley calls the program a way to "marry good school habits and good work habits." Included: Details on how the Cyberstars program operates.

Thanks to a team of tech-savvy high school students, computers that might have been headed for the trash heap are getting a second life in Cincinnati (Ohio) elementary and middle schools.

The students, who are enrolled in the Cyberstars program at the city's Virtual High School, are trained to repair, test, install, and network computers. For a $35 fee, the computers are placed in elementary and middle schools and serviced by Cyberstars' students.

The Cyberstars program is a paid internship, and students must keep up with their schoolwork to stay involved. "We are trying to marry good school habits and good work habits," Virtual High School principal Dr. Steven Hawley says. Henry Brasey, director of the computer refurbishing center where students are trained, adds, "We emphasize why students need to learn certain subjects. We've found that students involved in this program are more interested in school."

Brasey, a computer technician, directs the Community Access to Technology program at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, a non-profit organization offering programs for inner-city youth. He teaches students how to repair computers and how to provide on-site support for elementary and middle schools. The program employs several full-time staff members and volunteers; some students who have completed the program help teach as well.


About 20 students currently are enrolled in Cyberstars, which operates out of a warehouse facility known as the refurbishing center and is funded through grants managed by the city's Citizens Committee on Youth.

"The students are learning skills, a work ethic, and [professional] behavior," Brasey says. As part of the work-habits segment of the program, for example, students are required to clean up after themselves. Brasey acknowledges that it is their least favorite part of the lessons.

"We try to address all the issues that can become problems for employers," he adds. "We emphasize to students that if they have problems in school, they will have problems at work. We are also creating opportunities for students in fields where technicians are sorely needed."


Students usually are selected for the Cyberstars program in tenth grade. They attend computer courses in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends for a maximum of 15 hours a week. After 30 days of community service, they start getting paid for their work. During the summer, students participate in a "camp" program, where they continue to take courses and sometimes teach other students.

School administrators would like to see the training become a certification program, Hawley says. Some students already have been hired as computer technicians after graduation, he adds. Some even have been hired by the program itself.

Brian Harris, 19, who graduated from high school in June, now is a Cyberstars instructor. Harris says the Cyberstars program helped him develop goals. Before signing up for the program, "I had no direction in high school," Harris explains. "I was just falling in with the crowd. I wouldn't have had a good job without it. This gave me a lot of opportunity.

"I'm still learning stuff," Harris continues. "I'm trying to get certified. Then I want to go to school and to work."

The staff members' commitment to the program also helps boost students' self-assurance. "The key ingredient is personal involvement," says Brasey. "Building trust and confidence allows students to step out on their own."


Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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