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The City Journals

Students FIND new opportunities

Jan 30, 2019 11:11AM ● By Jet Burnham

Classes are taught by qualified instructors and industry representatives. (Jae Hwang/Itineris)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The after-school program at Itineris Early College High School known as FutureINDesign, or FIND, teaches classes in coding and computer design. But students gain much more than technical skills.

“They are learning great tech skills for professional development, as well as essential soft skills for personal and social development,” said Jaeyoon 'Jae' Hwang, program coordinator. “It is the perfect mix for students before they become young adults.”

Participants take 12 hours of classes each week. Professionals working in a variety of technical fields are regular presenters in class. Students also see real-life applications to the skills they are learning through frequent field trips to local companies such as Google, Adobe and Amazon as well as tech conventions and events.

Hailey Hutchings realizes the program is a unique opportunity to learn directly from professionals, which will be an advantage when she enters the workforce. 

“I think it's good that we have the opportunity to learn things like coding and graphic design because jobs are moving that way,” said the senior, who developed an interest in graphic design because of the program. “It's fantastic that we have the knowledge as a head start.” 

One of the skills Jasmine Em has learned through FIND is how to create her own website. She realizes this is a skill that can benefit any company she wants to work for.

“That’s why I’m doing this,” she said. “So, I can branch out and learn new things. Even though I’m not that interested in a career in computers, I’m still interested in the things that I learn.” 

Sasha Poma said her participation in FIND has inspired her to be open to new career options.

“I didn’t think I was going to do anything related to tech, but now I’m considering minoring or even double-majoring in computer science or graphic design because of what I’ve learned,” Poma said.

 Students gain experience and certification in several software programs, which Poma believes can still be an asset in jobs that aren’t specifically in the technical field.

“When we go to college and have to get a job and pay for it, we have more skills in our tool belt in addition to our own unique talents,” Poma said. “In the end, what I’m going to learn and take away from it — at virtually no cost other than my time — is worth a lot.”

Assistant Principal Jeff Bossard said while Itineris is a STEM-focused school, the program isn’t just for students who want to become computer programmers. He believes any student can benefit from the soft skills — problem-solving, goal setting, leadership, interpersonal skills — that make students more successful.

“The program will open doors for those young people that we can’t even anticipate,” he said. 

Kathy Tran, one of the design instructors for the program, said not all design lessons are necessarily high-tech. Sometimes a concept can be taught through something low-tech and accessible such as arranging sticky notes on paper. 

 “I really love that FIND is breaking down the barriers for students to learn design,” said Tran.

She said students also gain skills such as problem-solving, creative thinking, observation and ideation through her lessons.

Bossard said another side effect of the program is confidence. That was Jordan Olsen’s experience when he participated in FIND last year as a senior.

“Before I joined the program, I had a lot of self-confidence issues,” said Olsen. “I was wanting to start a business in some computer science field and thinking about some kind of game design. But I had no idea really of how to start and how to move forward with that. The program really opened my eyes to what I could expect and how I could get help in those areas. It boosted my confidence and my skills a lot.”

Because of last year’s success, this year’s program has nearly twice the enrollment. In addition to 22 seniors who spend three afternoons a week in classes, 30 juniors participate in one class each week.