The funds had been depleted at Roper and it was not yet time to reapply.
“Ballou was a continuation of the Roper project. We wanted to use technology to give these students a shot at immediate success,” says Prioleau. Fortunately, many of the companies that had worked with FEI at Roper agreed, and pledged their continued support. Novell, the firm that provided networking software for Roper, agreed to donate the course-work for the high school students. Prioleau estimates their contribution at more $100,00 than worth of software. “This is the most ambitious project that we’ve undertaken in the inner cities,” says Linda Linfield, community relations manager at Novell.
In December 1996, Edward H. Bersoff, Ph.D., CEO of BTG, a Fairfax, Virginia based IT company, heard about the proposed plan to train high school students in IT and instructed his staff to help make it happen. “The idea hit a nerve because there is a tremendous shortage of qualified people,” says Bersoff. BTG was responsible for the project design, management and system integration needed to make the center a reality, to the tune of some $70,000 in engineering services. The company also prevailed on its business partners to help the effort at Ballou.
A host of technology companies, including Cisco, Netscape, 3Com and Panasonic, donated $500-$3,500 worth of products and services. “If BTG and Compaq hadn’t stepped up to the plate, we wouldn’t have been able to get this done,” says Prioleau. Compaq donated $40,000 worth of computers to equip the technology learning center. Prioleau estimates it cost over $250,000 in software, hardware, training and manpower to complete the technical learning center at Ballou.
In January 1997, the first class of 20 seniors enrolled in the Novell certification course. Most of the students had no computer experience at all, and by the time the course was completed in June, only eight students remained. All eight have landed jobs in the systems administration field since graduation. Renard Dennis completed the program and eventually qualified as a Certified Novell Expert and NetWare Administrator. “I had no idea that I could be a networking expert,” says the 18-year-old freshman, who’s majoring in electronics and computer technology at North Carolina A&T. Dennis works with a local IT company during his summer and winter vacations.
Carolyn Cooper Cole, vice president of FEI, believes the program was successful in spite of the low number of students who completed the course. “We used last year as a learning experience,” says Cole, who will allow juniors and sophomores to enroll in the class so they can help other students who come after them. “When we had all seniors, we would lose them as soon as we trained them. This way we can have students who are trained network administrators who will maintain our system and mentor other student. FEI recently won a second TIIAP grant to expand the Ballou project to two more high schools in the District. .
MAINTENANCE AND UPGRADE
“Once the computers are in place, the most pressing issue is how to