Written by:
Jocelyn Villatoro and Aerin Taylor, 11th Grade - Fairmont Heights High School

   Tucked away in a small neighborhood lies a small school where students are doing big things. Fairmont Heights High School was the first school to open it’s doors in 1950 to African American students. The Information Technology Academy at Fairmont Heights High School is moving the school into the 21st Century and beyond. It began about five years ago during the 2011-2012 academic school year to provide an opportunity for students to learn vital and relevant IT skills such as coding, computer repair, and even app design.
   The pathways offered by the academy include networking and software programming. Students can successfully earn certifications that empower them to begin amazing careers and journeys. All students take the 9th grade intro course, Hardware and Software, before deciding on a pathway. The networking pathway includes Systems Engineering, CCNA1 and CCNA2. The software programming pathway covers Web Development, AP Computer Science and Android App Development.
   The goal of the academy is to prepare all students to be college and career ready. In order to do that, the teachers work to help the students improve not only their hardware and software skills, but also their work ethic and strengthen their professionalism. The academy hopes to increase the number of students obtaining professional certifications in Prince George’s County Public Schools. Once the students achieve a certification, they can develop partnerships with community leaders and businesses that lead to professional opportunities for students, including paid and unpaid internships.
   Overall, the goal of the I.T Academy is to engage students with the world outside of Prince George’s County. The different courses in the academy are all learning complex yet amazing things at the moment in order to better their skills. The AP computer science course is currently working on programming and learning java. The android app development course is currently working on storyboard apps, in which they recreate a children’s story in app format. The systems engineering course is currently learning how data travels from their computer to the network referring constantly to the “ODI model”.
   On the other hand, the web development course just started learning javascript which is the basis for interactivity on a website. This is being learned after the students successfully learned HTML and CSS which is the structure and style of web pages and apps. Finally the computer repair course is currently learning more about RAID, the various components of a computer and how they work together. The successes continue to build. During the 2014-2015 school year, the academy graduated their first class of seniors. Overall the students have received over 100 certifications as a whole. Mr. Steven Cottington, the computer repair/web development teacher stated “Our students learn something cool they would have never been exposed to otherwise, and influencing kids into wanting to do this for a living is a huge success in itself”

Meet the I.T Instructors!
   Ms. Farissa Elvis, CCNA1 and CCNA2 teacher said, “It offers students an opportunity to learn about a profession that they may be interested in. It also, prepares them for the rigour of what an IT professional would have to work through with the information needed learning how to attain certifications.” This is Elvis’ first year teaching at Fairmont Heights, but so far she is amazed over the hardworking students and their dedication. She enjoys instructing them for reasons such as the fact that taking these courses will majorly impact the students in a positive way.
   Mr. Steven Cottington, web development, software, and hardware teacher said, “It offers students a chance to have a different high school experience than they have expected. The students learn things that are cool, relavent, fun, and more challenging than your average course.” This is Cottington’s 4th year teaching at Fairmont Heights High school. He initially started out as an English teacher but branched out to instructing I.T after finding how challenging and exhilarating it all is. While this is his second year instructing I.T, he is able to relate and understand his students on a different level because he too went through the same process of learning the material recently.
   Ms. Quiana Bannerman, AP Computer Science, android app development, and systems engineering teacher said, “That it provides students a real world experience with technology at a young age. This is Bannerman’s second year at Fairmont Heights. Throughout these two years, she’s created great relationships with students and always encourages them to work hard and helps whenever it is needed.

   The IT Academy at Fairmont Heights High works with Youth CareerConnect (YCC) and the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) to ensure that the students can apply their certifications and knowledge to the real world. Ms. Tanisha Cleveland, coordinator for YCC/SYEP said, “The academy provides students with an opportunity for them to join a specialized program that’s designed to strengthen their career and college readiness by providing relevant learning and enrichment opportunities through the YCC program.”

The Student View
   Melanie Ventura, Freshmen at FHHS says, she likes IT because “it’s fun to do. In class there are memorable games and projects that are actually related to technology. I’m getting information on computer parts that can help me be tech savvy or help me with future projects that involve the use of a computer.” Ventura currently takes the standard class for freshman in the program which is hardware and software. However, because of the class she has an idea of what she will be doing in the future stating, “I don’t know what to do as a career yet, but I’m hoping that once I get through IT I’ll be interested in a career of that field.”
   Elvis Gaytan, Sophomore at FHHS says, he likes I.T because “it’s a great way to learn about computers and better prepare me for if I wanted a career like this”. What he hopes to get out of his IT experience at school is a good career in the future. His mind is currently to all aspects of IT, giving he says he would love to be involved with “Anything that has to do with IT”. Gaytan is currently enrolled in the Web Development course in the Academy. He is currently expanding his knowledge on the coding side of Information Technology. Here he is creating website like pages on different scenarios.
   Comfort Jato, Junior at FHHS says, “I enjoy the academy because it gives me opportunities and it places me out of my comfort zone. I’m getting opportunities that I would have never received otherwise or thought of. I plan to continue doing computer science and programming.” Jato is currently enrolled in the AP Computer Science course, which is mandatory for students in the academy. Jato is also in the YCC program, which allowed her to receive a summer internship with Dimensions Healthcare, specifically in the technology side alongside her fellow peers. Working alongside Comfort at Dimensions Healthcare was Vanessa Lima, Senior at FHHS who states, “I like the IT Academy because the things you learn will benefit you in the future. They are helpful to know in our technology-advanced world. I am getting certifications since they are useful to have. They will open opportunities for me and will help me get a technology-related job. I plan to get a job in IT using everything I learn, which will lead to my future career.”
   Vanessa’s sister, Melissa Lima, was one of the first students to graduate from the IT Academy. Vanessa said, “The I.T Academy has benefitted my sister a lot. My sister has received numerous certifications from the academy. While she is in the army her certifications have helped her get promoted in the technology field and make more money. It gave her an opportunity that others do not have which benefits her.” Although the I.T academy at Fairmont Heights HS is a major success, many schools still are not on board. Currently there are only 3 high schools providing I.T. These schools being Fairmont Heights, Duval, and Gwynn Park. Duval and Gwen park are new to the program and are expanding. Ms. Quiana Bannerman said, “More schools should be doing this because it gives students an idea of what what I.T is about”.
   Fellow FHHS I.T instructor Mr. Steven Cottington agreed by saying, “The program offers a challenging curriculum that gives students real skills and certifications that they graduate with. Also, the material is pretty cool and actually makes learning fun and engaging.”
   It’s no secret that this academy is changing the basic high school life for many Hornets at Fairmont Heights high school. Beyond the normal academics, they get to experience a whole different side of education. Particularly a complex one that many people do not even learn until college, or not at all. It’s clear that this school is churning out future programmers, coders, engineers and I.T professionals. The Hornets are clear to have a passion for what they do here at the academy. This passion is what will lead them to do great things. As Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t Settle.”

Steven Cottington interacting with students on how to properly develop code.

Matthew Phuse, 11th Grade, talking with Dr. Shawn Joseph, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning about the benefits of the IT Academy.