NCHS senior showcases tech skills as Unit 5's 1st student support specialist
NORMAL, Apr 11, 2012 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A day's work for Freddy Marling might include attending a McLean County Unit 5 technology staff meeting, helping install a fax machine, shooting and editing videos, assembling a laptop computer or helping improve cameras on a school bus.
The variety of technical tasks might not sound so remarkable for an employee at a school district that educates more than 13,300 students each day, but it is more notable because Marling is one of those students.
A Normal Community High School senior, Marling is the first student support specialist to be hired by the district as part of a pilot project. Loren Baele, Unit 5's director of technology, hopes he is the first of many.
"He's building a resume," Baele said of all the skills the student is learning.
Marling, 17, makes the minimum wage of $8.25 per hour for his duties at both Normal Community and Normal Community West high schools and at the Eagle Road Resource Center of the district.
He is one of 26 Normal Community students who attend classes in the morning and work in the afternoon as part of the school's cooperative education program.
His work record becomes part of his grades and credits he accumulates toward graduation, said Megan Freymann, business teacher and work program coordinator at Normal Community.
Baele, formerly a teacher, enjoys mentoring students and seeing them gain skills. He hopes to have at least two student support specialists next year at both high schools. The permanent technician staff of four can use the help in a school district with more than 6,000 devices, Baele said.
Marling started by sorting data cables in January. That and other menial tasks helped him prove himself. Now he's moved on to more technical tasks that prepare him for the workplace, Freymann said.
"It's a grow-your-own project," Baele said of the program. He hopes to hire juniors in the future so they can have two years' experience.
The pilot project's first three month's have been so successful, that Marling will likely also be included among the first summer technology crews at the district. Baele hopes to hire three or four students to help with the district's digital conversion project. Their jobs will include unpacking and preparing about 1,000 new devices for middle school students to use next year.
"I've always been a techie," Marling said. He most enjoys building computers. "I've done it enough times at home," he said.
Marling hopes to attend college and eventually work in the video gaming industry. He jokes he has plenty of experience gaming.
Marling, who has Crohn's disease, said the work/school combination is perfect for him. Because of health problems and needing homebound education when he was sick, he wouldn't have graduated on time without the extra credits for the cooperative work program. Working half a day is not "too taxing" and it's the kind of thing he enjoys, he said.
Baele said the job helps students who have a love of technology broaden their views and get a bigger picture.
"It's definitely interesting to see how the district works from the inside," the student said. He understands now some the restraints in money and staffing better than some of his peers, he said.
Baele said he had high expectations for the first student in the job. "He's gone above and beyond even what I expected," the technology director said of Marling.
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