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East Bay School’s Tech Academy Helps Students Think About College, Career

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RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — This weekend, people in Contra Costa County can get their computer problems fixed, for free. It’s part of a unique high school program, where students study technology, and learn about themselves.

When De Anza High School in Richmond was rebuilt, they wanted it to be a place where kids enjoyed learning.

Mission accomplished. Ben Gill’s Information Technology Academy is one of the most popular programs on campus. Here, the kids don’t just learn how computers work, but how to fix them when they don’t.

“Three years of really intense training that gets kids ready for college and career,” Gill told KPIX 5.

Ben Gill teaches the Information Technology Academy at De Anza High School in Richmond. (CBS)

Ben Gill teaches the Information Technology Academy at De Anza High School in Richmond. (CBS)

As a former smog mechanic who became a teacher on a dare, Ben focuses his program on the vocational side of tech. His students learn how to repair and maintain computers and even design websites, skills for which there are actually jobs.

“One of my favorite tag lines here in my classroom is that the skills you learn in the academy are directly connected to your wallet,” Gill said.

It’s a hands-on approach that sparks the mind, and the imagination. They now have a robotics class that has won UC Berkeley’s competition the last two years. The academy also has a video production program.

Each Thursday, students are required to discuss tech news at the front of the class to get them used to speaking to a group. And suddenly, kids who never even considered college, now consider it the next step.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment because it tells me that I can go far and I can learn something,” said Suny Sheemar, a senior in the academy.

Denise Smith, also a senior in the academy, said, “If I can do this in high school, just imagine at college, there’ll be so many different things I’ll learn.”

And so, on Saturday when people ask them to solve their computer problems, the kids will realize they’re not just students anymore. They’ve earned the title of “expert.”

People interested in getting their computer fixed can bring them to the De Anza High School gym on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2.p.m. Students will provide all services free of charge.

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