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UTSA, Local Schools Collaborate on K-12 IT Programs

Students and faculty from the University of Texas at San Antonio have worked with local school districts to provide technology, lessons and other resources to K-12 students regarding IT career opportunities.

University of Texas at San Antonio
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Though they necessarily operate in separate domains, technology education programs in higher ed and K-12 can be mutually beneficial, and an outreach initiative at the University of Texas at San Antonio is demonstrating how.

UTSA's University Tech Solutions (UTS) Bold Careers Ambassador and Internship Program has been working with local schools by raising funds for K-12 technologies and hosting presentations to familiarize students with future career opportunities in tech. According to UTSA’s Associate VP of Technology Compliance Vanessa Kenon, the initiative extends university resources to local districts while giving UTSA students an opportunity to develop hands-on industry skills through professional networking and outreach with schools. One project headed by the program involved fundraising efforts for Galveston Independent School District to obtain a “technology bus” outfitted with tech tools for more engaging STEM lessons.

“On this particular bus, there’s technology that the students could work with that maybe they would not have at their individual schools,” she said in a webinar hosted Nov. 3 as part of the Educause Annual Conference.

UTSA technology specialist Clowey Adams said the university also invited students from the Northside School of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (NSITE), a local business high school, to visit UTSA’s Cyber Range this year at the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, where students can practice how to respond to cyber attacks in a simulated IT environment.

“Students in clubs and classes who take cybersecurity have a chance to go in there and practice these mock cyber attacks, and they got to see a cool demonstration of the room,” she said of students’ visit to the Cyber Range, adding that NSITE students also visited UTSA’s Digital Experience (DEx) Laboratory.

According to a recent news release from UTSA, the recent tour allowed interns to share their passion for information technology with students and help spark an early interest in IT-related fields.

"I enjoyed assisting students during the field trip, and I had fun sharing my experience with UTSA as a publications intern, as well as answering any questions the students had about UTSA's resources,” UTSA student intern Dominique Salinas said in a news release. “I felt empowered to be a part of an organization and school that has a nationally recognized cybersecurity program, and I was grateful to be a part of this event. I felt inspired to see so many high schoolers interested and passionate about information technology, and feel hopeful that the next generation of IT professionals will be passionate about what they do."

Among other initiatives, the university recently assisted efforts to raise $25,000 through the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications to establish an e-sports team at San Antonio Independent School District, which Adams said looks to increase student engagement, collaboration confidence and academic performance.

The university also hosts career day events at area schools to teach them about career opportunities in tech-related fields, as well as teaching students about how technology has changed over time.

“Students have a lot of questions … So, this is a good way [universities] can go out and help,” Kenon said of the career events. “It was amazing for them to look at some of the older technology to see where it came from.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.