In a classroom decked out with green, blue and orange balloons sat 13 young adults and a sea of their family and friends. Over the past 16 weeks, they’ve been fully immersed in the IT world and today they graduate.
It’s the December 19 graduation of the Fall 2013 cohort of the Information Technology Workforce Program (“ITWorks”) program. It is a free, immersive IT training program provided to vulnerable young adults who identify as high-achieving high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 who have not been to college. ITWorks is run by Tech Impact, a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits leverage technology to make a greater impact.
“What I hope you walk away with is the knowledge that there are people in those companies who care about you,” said Tech Impact’s Associate Executive Director Anthony Pisapia, in his welcoming remarks. “The journey starts here.”
Through the course of the program, ITWorks students get internship experience while they earn a professional certification in IT. The 13 most recent graduates interned at the area’s leading corporations and nonprofits, including ACHIEVEability, Neighbor to Neighbor, The Urban League of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Youth Network, City Year Greater Philadelphia and The Salvation Army.
Even on graduation, students had lessons to learn. Pisapia urged them to remember their new network of supporters. And keynote speaker, RJ Juliano, chief information officer and vice president of media at Brandywine Realty Trust, talked about doing hard work (“It’s really easy to get on the easy”), about being a problem solver (“Sometimes people will tell you what to do as opposed to what the problem is”) and about mistakes (“It took four days of intense sweating and searching to find that $300 million”).
“Make all of this count. Continue to show up, continue to do your best, and continue to show up on time,” said Grace Harpole, ITWorks program director.
Two student speakers talked about how their lives had changed in the course of the program and what it meant to them. “These 16 weeks have been a blast,” said Michael Washington, who interned at law firm Cozen O’Connor.
“Before this, I worked in a fast food restaurant with no idea what I wanted to do, no dreams, no goals, but all that has changed now,” said Prince Yawson, who interned at Blood Bank of Delmarva. “Now I have a career and a reason to wake up in the morning.”
Yawson and Washington were joined by fellow students Taylor Accooe, Azriel Allen, Shaquille Brackett, Felton Bruce, Kyle Heard, Ammonni Moffitt, Christian Pezanowski, Jafir Riley, Keith Samuels-Bey, Aasim Sharper and Abdul Rahman Yusuf.Graduates of the program see an average salary increase of 100 percent. In operating ITWorks, Tech Impact receives assistance from hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations, including Accenture, Alteva, Anexinet, BBD CPA, Blood Bank of Delmarva, Brooksource, Cozen O’Connor, CSC, David Consulting Group, Deloitte, EMC, The Goshen Group, Insource Technology Solutions, The Judge Group, Lamoreaux Search, Reed Tech, Robert Half, SAP America, Tricomm, Uptown Entertainment and Dev Corp, Vertex, XO Communications, and 94WIP.
ITWorks is free for students because of the support of AT&T, Bank of America, the Claneil Foundation, Connelly Foundation, Reed Elsevier, the United Way, and Wells Fargo.
As Yawson said, “ITWorks works!”
Article By: Rosella Eleanor LaFevre