Everyone loves a win-win situation, and that’s what Information Technology (IT) scholarships from the Fond du Lac Area Foundation have created for Moraine Park Technical College IT students and area nonprofit organizations.
The Information Technology Service-Based Learning Internship Scholarship Program proposal was created by Moraine Park in 2006 after a survey of Fond du Lac area nonprofits showed a significant need for technical assistance with computer hardware and software, networking and Web site development and maintenance. Moraine Park IT program instructors receive 10 to 30 requests for assistance from nonprofits each semester, so many that a waiting list was established. The scholarship proposal was approved by the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, with two scholarships being awarded in 2006-07 and eight in 2007-08.
“The Fond du Lac Area Foundation supported these scholarships for Moraine Park IT students because as a non-profit ourselves, we recognize how expensive IT needs can be and that most nonprofits cannot afford to pay for the costs of keeping their technology needs current,” said Sandi Roehrig, executive director of the Foundation. “We applaud Moraine Park for finding an innovative program which would provide their students with important IT experience and at the same time assist our local nonprofit community with valuable IT assistance.”
The Foundation scholarships provide an extra benefit for Moraine Park IT students who put their education to work in service to the community and are worth up to $150. Students also gain valuable real-world experience, dealing with everyday IT issues and fulfilling a class requirement.
“It helped me prepare for challenges and responsibilities by using technologies in ways that provide successful and useful online experience,” said Moraine Park IT – Web Developer program student Susan Hageman of Ripon, who worked on a redesign of the Free SPIRIT Riders Web site in which she updated old content, made information easier to find and set up an online merchant service for donations and fees. “I gained business skills in the area,” she said. “I learned how to effectively communicate with the employer. It was very valuable because it prepared me for work on other Web sites, creating effective layouts and managing content, and I used almost all knowledge from the classes I took in the field.”
Even before the scholarship implementation, Moraine Park IT students volunteered with nonprofits. An IT – Web Developer program student created a Web site for Fond du Lac Festivals, and another student maintained it. An IT – Network Specialist student volunteered his time to help an organization with its desktop computer and networking needs. Another project involved the design and development of a Web site for Habitat for Humanity in Fond du Lac. After completing the project, the student offered to maintain the site on a volunteer basis.
Other nonprofit partnerships have included Crashin’ for the Cause, Fond du Lac Area United Way, Fond du Lac County Labor Council, Fond du Lac Soccer Association, Free SPIRIT Riders Inc., Ledge to Lakes District of Bay-Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Volunteer Center of Fond du Lac County Inc. and Whisper Hill Clydesdales Special Needs Foundation.
Like Hageman, Nikki Fink of Fond du Lac found working for a real organization to be beneficial. An IT – Web Developer and IT- Technical Support student, Fink learned a lot while maintaining the Fond du Lac County Labor Council’s Web site. “In a classroom setting you work with a ‘fake’ client, and the deadlines you set are always met,” she said. “When you have a real client you find out how easy it is to get behind schedule. I learned how to realistically set deadlines with a client.” She also enjoyed the opportunity to better the community by helping the nonprofit organization.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity for students and nonprofits in our community,” said Tammy Freund, Moraine Park IT – Web Developer program instructor. “Our students gain valuable experience while the non-profits gain much-needed services. After graduation, many of our interns continue to provide services to the nonprofits they worked with.”
For more information about Moraine Park’s Information Technology programs, visit www.morainepark.edu and click Academics.