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Westerly Public Schools Empower Student Tech Leaders through Internship Program

As a member of the OSHEAN network, the team at Westerly Public Schools is well aware of the impact technology can have in improving outcomes. From internet speed to research capabilities, being connected to the OSHEAN network allows the school to give students the tools they need to achieve great things. It’s fitting, then, that the district had the vision to develop an internship program for students interested in a career in technology – one that is already paying dividends in both college and real-world opportunities.
As the Director of Technology for Westerly Public Schools, Mark Lamson saw opportunity in the sea of broken laptops and projectors that fell into disrepair after heavy use by students. Knowing there were talented kids in their midst who wanted to explore technology led Lamson and Westerly High School principal Steven Ruscito to create an internship program that helped students understand how to manage and perform in the role of a help desk supervisor, a position that is a frequent staple of IT departments in business and higher education settings. With over 2,000 computers in the district, there was plenty of work to be done. 
“We’ve had the internship program in place for approximately three years to provide an outlet for Westerly High School students interested in technology,” said Lamson. “In effect, we’re putting students in an environment with highly-trained mentors while helping them to use practical solutions to solve real-world problems.”  
While the students are well-versed in bringing a dead laptop back to life or unsticking a jammed printer, they’re also taking on projects in their spare time to further showcase their technical expertise. One student, Isaac Kaufman, is using a VMWare ESXI hypervisor to host virtualized environments and created his own virtual server as a side-project. “I never would have known about ESXI technology without this internship,” he said. He’s gotten into the nitty-gritty of virtual systems infrastructure by load-balancing available resources and building it to the standards of an enterprise-grade application.
Fellow intern Connor Greene is working on something a bit more bite-sized – literally. After Lamson purchased several credit card-sized single-board computers known as the Raspberry Pi, Connor got to work building an operating system that could be stored on an SD card to host a version of the popular Minecraft video game. “This program is helping kids like me learn and apply transferable skills,” said Connor.
The program has done just that for several recent graduates of Westerly High School. Former student interns Jeff Michalak and Corey Cabral are enrolled at the New England Institute of Technology and URI, respectively. For Roy Seitsinger, Westerly Public Schools superintendent, technology is the bridge that will connect students to each other now and to careers in the not-too-distant future.
“The internship program is providing them with a set of experiences they can draw upon for the rest of their lives,” said Seitsinger. “They’re developing real-world experiences with direct applications for going confidently into those first job interviews.”

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