In recognition of National Volunteer Week, Tech Impact is spotlighting some of our amazing volunteers each day this week. The ITWorks and CXWorks volunteers are such an asset to these programs, and they make a huge impact on our students. Our programs would not be the same without them!
Ishmell (Ish) Bradley, Director of Technology at Wissahickon Charter School, had been looking for an organization to partner with to provide motivated and hungry young people some hands-on experience through an internship. When Mike Purcell, a former ITWorks assistant instructor, joined the Wissahickon team; he knew just the organization Ish was looking for! Over the past two years, Ish and Mike have hosted four ITWorks students as interns and helped them launch their IT Careers. They can’t wait to see who they get to work with next!
Tech Impact: The ITWorks students that have had the opportunity to intern at Wissahickon Charter School enjoyed such positive experiences – we are so grateful for this partnership! How did you first come to know about ITWorks?
Mike: Well I had met a former Tech Impact associate through a local swim club who co-founded ITWorks and told me about it – and I just fell in love with it. He asked me to get involved in a part-time capacity and it was perfect for me. I thought about how much of an impact it would have made in my life if I had been given access to a program like this when I was in their age range…so it just made a lot of sense.
Ish: Yup, so basically Mike made it happen! As soon as Mike came on board, one of the first conversations we had was how I had been hoping to partner with an organization or college as part of an internship program to support technology students. His involvement with ITWorks beforehand made it all happen. It’s been such a great fit.
Tech Impact: That is so cool! I imagine there are a plethora of internship, co-op, apprenticeship, and other programs around Philadelphia. What made ITWorks the most appealing?
I: While colleges and universities offer a lot of different degrees and programs, none of them had a true focus on supporting educational technology. After Mike and I got together, I could see that ITWorks was teaching students everything they needed to know to get their foot in the door AND that the students were completely open to supporting any kind of technology environment – including education. And I found that to be different from other programs I encountered. The first intern we had was interested in being exactly in our type of environment. It’s amazing to work with young people who can adjust and blend into any kind of working environment.
Tech Impact: That couldn’t be more true! ITWorks students are so eager to get some hands-on experience, no matter what kind of organization or company they may be supporting. Your interns have gotten an amazing internship supporting the needs of your schools – staff, students, and beyond. So, what’s in it for Wissahickon Charter School and your technology team?
M: One of my favorite things about hosting interns is that the graduates who come out of this program immediately recognize the value of the program and how it is dramatically improving the trajectory of their careers and their lives. Often times, they are so eager to give back as soon as during their internships – before they have even graduated Our interns have been so excited in being able to support our staff and students here at Wissahickon and are truly proud of the impact they can make. It’s so much fun for me as an individual!
I: For our team, it really comes down to having the extra support! We are usually two or three steps behind the corporate world, so having ITWorks students here to help our IT team allows us to get more done and get up to speed.
M: Yes! I think it really enhances, or maybe deepens, our ability to develop solutions for our end-users so they can have a better experience. When we have ITWorks interns, they are getting the hands-on experience they are after and it gives us the opportunity to devote our energy on the higher-level work all while bringing them into the fold on those projects as well. One example that comes to mind is the cart registry system. We had bits and pieces of this system previously, but it was never something we could confidently deliver to our users. Once the ITWorks intern came in, they were able to put all those pieces together and get it up and running – not only delivering a solid product but also saving us LOTS of money.
Tech Impact: So it sounds like everyone is winning here! Wissahickon is able to stay current in their technology, your IT team increases their capacity, and the ITWorks interns get an amazing experience. What’s the reason other Philly organizations might want to host an ITWorks intern?
I: It really comes down to two things: the dollar and cents value of hosting an intern and supporting the community by giving a young person the launch pad they need. For us, it was a no-brainer.
Wissahickon Charter School’s founders wrote that Wissahickon will provide a community of learning with an environmental focus that stimulates the child’s intellectual, social, and character development. They have two campuses in Philadelphia: Awbury and Fernhill. To learn more about volunteering with Tech Impact, visit our Program pages.