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Getting ahead in IT – ‘Here and Now’

Current Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School Student earns technical diploma through LTC program

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June 28, 2023

CLEVELAND – As he prepares for his senior year at Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School, Charles Loeffler’s future is already on track for success – as he already has a technical diploma in information technology-web development specialist under his belt. 

The high school student earned the technical diploma through Lakeshore Technical College’s (LTC) Here and Now program.

A program that James Rice, a web and software developer instructor at LTC, said helps students get a “step up (and) gives them a head start in (their) career field.”

Beginning steps
The program got its start at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

“Its purpose is to partner with local high schools and offer our certificate to the high school students free of charge while they’re attending high school,” Rice said. “In some instances, they can graduate with the technical diploma, or I’ve had a few students already graduated with their associate’s (degree) at the same time they graduated high school.”

In many instances, Rice said students are recruited either by their high school counselors or teachers. 

“They know the programs, they know if there’s any students interested,” he said. “(For example) if they’re taking an intro to computer science course, they’ll be like, ‘Hey, by the way, you have this path you can take if you’re interested.’”

LTC also has a high school relations team that does site visits at the beginning of each semester, Rice said, to help get the word out.

Registration happens within the student’s high school, where Rice said LTC’s high school relations team and advisor group helps them set up a Blackboard account – the college’s learning management system.

Currently, Rice said LTC works with Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South, Manitowoc Lincoln, Manitowoc McKinley Academy, Two Rivers, Mishicot and Kiel high schools. 

The program and meeting needs
Rice said the Here and Now program is geared toward students who are interested in the IT (information technology) sector, where he said the industry is seeing a need for employees.

“There are a lot of jobs (within) this industry, and there are a lot of remote opportunities,” he said. “And there’s not a lot of professionals… in IT in general, but like software development and the cybersecurity realm – there’s not a lot of professionals being developed in that world.” 

Rice said even students who have a slight interest or curiosity of IT are encouraged to try out the program.

“I think the college program is trying to bridge that gap where we – for lack of a better term – catch them in high school and say, ‘Hey, these are other things you can do as a web or software developer or in the computer science realm,’ and then open their eyes and show them the possibilities,” he said. “Especially with the extensive amount of jobs that aren’t being filled across the nation.”

Each student’s schedule of LTC courses can vary, but Rice said two factors remain consistent: the classes are incorporated into a student’s high school course schedule, and students earn dual credit.

Rice said LTC offers a recommended path spanning three years:

Year one
Courses would include Web Development I, Advancements in Web Design and Development, which Rice said are considered front-end web development.

“They do HTML, CSS, stuff like that,” he said. “It’s designing web pages and what you see on the screen, and the alignment of buttons, fonts, colors and spacing.”

Year two
Year two courses include Web Development II, Programming Introduction, which Rice said are considered back-end programming.

“(These courses focus) on programming logic, decision making and loops – what we call loops and JavaScript – and some more behind-the-scenes programming so they can understand how everything is working,” he said.

Year three
The final year of courses typically include Database Design and Development, Web Development III, which Rice said focus on “the database side of everything.”

Working cohesively together
In terms of how all three years of courses work together, Rich said he uses Amazon as an example.

“The front end side is what you see on the screen,” he said. “The back end is processing actions – like adding items to your cart – and then what the third year focuses on is database stuff, and that’s how they retrieve and store information.”

Though LTC has a recommended path, Rice said a student’s schedule can be “pretty fluid.”

“If they want to take something else, or they have prerequisites, they can choose whatever classes they want,” he said. “As long as they’re not struggling and they’re successful.”

Rice said certain classes in the program are taught by the high school teachers under LTC’s curriculum and syllabus guidelines, while other classes are taught asynchronously online, where the students will have a designated class period to do the coursework.

In most cases, Rice said students will start the Here and Now program as a sophomore, though Rice said some have started as freshmen.

“We prefer they wait until their sophomore year because freshman year of high school can be overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve had students enroll as freshmen and succeed, but as a baseline, we feel more comfortable if they enroll as a sophomore to give them that buffer so they can adjust and then they can get ready for the college rigor.” 

There are several different accessibility factors that play into the program, such as it being free to students, something Rice said is important because most “high school students don’t have money in their pocket to pay for college.”

“I tell them all the time, ‘this is a fantastic opportunity,’” he said. “And say you get your two-year associate’s and you decide, ‘Okay, maybe this isn’t the career path I want.’ You can still use those transfer credits to get into a four-year institution. And it’s given you a two-year jumpstart on college, so you’re setting up your personal and career goals.”

On top of the financial benefits, Rice said each high school the LTC works with has a classroom dedicated to students enrolled in the Here and Now program.

“LTC goes there and builds in the classroom, so their classrooms in our high schools will mimic our classrooms here,” he said. “They have the same workstations, the same desk, capabilities, the screens, the TVs – everything we have here at the college, we put in a classroom for them so they have that college atmosphere to complete the work. And they have all of the things they need (for the program).”

Rice said he is also available to the students if they need help.

“It’s not like you’re in this program now and then we just leave you flapping in the wind,” he said. “They can reach me virtually, over the phone or via email. I maintain contact with them. On my end, they’re integrated into my normal classes.”

First-hand experience
When Loeffler – a sophomore at the time – was approached by the superintendent of Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School and asked if he was interested in the Here and Now program, he said he jumped on the chance.

Charles Loeffler

“My school had been looking to join the Here and Now program for a while,” he said. “They needed someone to try it out, so they approached me, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Loeffler said his interest in computers combined with watching his dad work with software as an electrical engineer sparked his interest in wanting to become a software engineer – making the program a great way for him to get a head start.

“I learned quite a bit about coding and computer science (through the program),” he said.

During his two years with LTC, Loeffler said he took a total of 22 college credits – equalling about seven classes.

Learning how to balance his high school classes with his college classes “was definitely challenging at times.”

“The first semester I’d take one class, the second I would take two,” he said. “The workload was manageable. It got a bit more difficult toward the end of the semester when we’d get our final projects.”

On top of managing both a high school and college course load, Loeffler said he also had two jobs – one as a reservationist at a local resort, and another as a crossing guard for elementary and middle school students.

“I did struggle a bit managing my time (in the beginning),” he said. “But as I took more classes, I became much better with time management. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned from the classes, too… Once I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy.” 

Looking at the future
As the 2023-24 school year inches closer, both Loeffler and Rice said there are things they are looking forward to.

For Rice, he said LTC will be introducing two new high schools to the Here and Now program in the fall: Oostburg High School and, you guessed it, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School.

For Loeffler, after completing his senior year of high school, he said he plans to attend college at either the Milwaukee School of Engineering or the University of Wisconsin-Madison to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science.

Loeffler said the Here and Now program helped give him a great look into what college would look like for him.

“It gave me a great glimpse of how my education is going to look after high school in terms of workload, how much you’re learning, the assignments, lectures, all of that,” he said. “I’m grateful I had those experiences because now I’m looking forward to my education once I’m done with high school.”

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