Twin Rivers district turns to student interns for computer help

Omar Morales, a recent graduate of Foothill High, installs computer wires under the desks at Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Academy on Tuesday.

Computer wires sat tangled on the tile floor while hardware waited for repair. Each classroom at Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy needed attention from Twin Rivers Unified School District information technology workers.

Instead of turning to costly vendors or overloading district support staff, Twin Rivers brought in high school interns to help prepare the technology-focused junior high, which is fitted with computers at all 32 student desks in all 35 classrooms.

And the results have district staff and the teens smiling about the partnership.

The teens are gaining valuable work experience in a $8 per hour internship paid through the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency. And the district is receiving a considerable discount for the services.

“This is fun. I love doing this,” said Andrey Becherskiy, 16, who will be a junior at Grant High School in the fall.

Kevin Hall, a computer systems specialist for the district, said getting the computers in good operating shape before the new school year would have taken weeks longer if not for the help of the four interns who have worked with him through the summer.

Two more interns were added after their custodial internships ended. Another intern has spent her summer working on the district’s Web site.

This is the first summer Twin Rivers has placed teens in information technology internships.

The idea stems from a pilot program at Foothill High School. Last spring, Foothill started MOUSE Squad of California, a student-run IT help desk that offers the district computer support while training students.

This fall, Foothill plans to build on the MOUSE Squad, which comes with its own curriculum. After further training, Foothill hopes to offer community members computer repair services and also will accept e-waste for recycling.

The district plans to expand the MOUSE Squad to other high schools in the future.

“These kids are working side-by-side with our IT department,” said Sarah DiRuscio, director of instruction and information technology. “They are setting up computer labs and getting hands-on technology experience that can be used in the real world.”

Becherskiy said he probably would have spent his summer bored at home if not for the internship. Now, he says he’s saving for a car.

“I get money and I learn more stuff,” Becherskiy said. “It’s great. I’m really glad I got a summer job.”

Becherskiy said fixing computers at the junior high has had its surprises. He showed a souvenir – a razor blade – he recently recovered from inside a computer.

Most of the computer problems are normal wear from repeated use by junior high kids, although it’s not uncommon to find items shoved into a USB port or discover other mischievous acts.

“Some kids take their frustrations out on the computers,” said Jeremy Briggs, manager of computer support at the district. “They end up (needing repairs) after a month. We continually have to put more manpower into it. With the work these (interns) have done, it’s going to make it to where we don’t have to come in. Everything will be more durable and the school won’t have to spend as much money on equipment.”

Andrey Becherskiy, a junior at Grant High School, does maintenance on a computer station router. Morales and Becherskiy are paid IT interns for the Twin Rivers Unified School District, which said getting the computers ready for the new school year would have taken weeks longer without them.

IT interns Omar Morales and Gennadiy Moskalenco work on computer wiring Tuesday morning at Martin Luther King, Jr. Tech Academy. The internship program was inspired by a pilot program at Foothill High School called the MOUSE Squad. The Twin Rivers Unified School District plans to have the Foothill program assist the community with its computer repair needs and accept e-waste for recycling.