PBLA introduces technology training course

In a classroom at Regis University this summer, a group of Porter-Billups Leadership Academy 10th graders were hard at work rebuilding computer towers. Sitting in front of the deconstructed machines, the students learned how to assemble the parts step by step, relying on teamwork, manuals and the guidance of Regis Information Technologies Instructor Ishmael Thomas.

“It’s a process and it’s confusing sometimes figuring out where things go and what order things go in,” said PBLA student Jovonnie Babineaux, a sophomore at Green Valley Ranch High School. “But after a while, you get a general idea and it gets easier.”

By the end of the three-week course, the computers will be donated to local schools in need — and Babineaux and his classmates will walk away with marketable technology skills.

PBLA has entered its 25th year of providing summer enrichment programming to Denver students from fourth grade to 12th grade. For three weeks each summer, students take courses tailored to their grade levels, from a class about Jackie Robinson’s leadership for fourth-graders to a course about transitioning into high school for ninth-graders. This year, 195 students are enrolled in the program.

As part of the technology training course, the students will be able to earn CompTIA A+ certification, which represents foundational IT skills for a variety of devices and operating systems. When the students return for their junior and senior years, they will be able to add to their tech credentials, with certifications in CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+, which certify knowledge in creating and managing wired and wireless devices and best practices in network security.

Thomas, who helped launch the course in partnership with PBLA and the University’s Center for Common Good Computing, sees the course as a way for the students to start their careers, no matter what industry they decide to enter.

“That gives them a launching pad they might not understand currently,” Thomas said. “But if they succeed and follow through, they will be grateful not because we did anything, but because they actually took the time to learn something.”

Thomas said the course comes with another major benefit: The computers, secured for PBLA by a local Rotary Club, will be donated by the Rotarians to schools in need. In the future, Thomas anticipates that the program’s focus will shift to providing remote Regis University students with computers as part of a learning kit.

“These end-product machines that they’re putting together can then be given to other students on campus or to anybody anywhere all over the world,” Thomas said. “That’s the Jesuit way.”