Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tutoring Youth in the Net@ (Network Academy) Program

Four years ago, NETA began in Israel. It is a program to train underprivileged youth outside the center of Israel for high tech professions. The Net@ Program operates in 24 towns in Israel in partnership with an Israeli non-profit called Tapuach, the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and Cisco. Students attend classes for four hours twice a week for 3 years. At the end of their studies, students who pass international certification exams become qualified in CCNA and ComPIA A +. In addition to computer skills, students learn about leadership and community responsibility. By the end of the second year, they begin to mentor younger students. Eliya, a 2007 graduate of the program from Kiryat Malachi, said that this program changed her life. The NET@ students in KM and throughout the country have become an extended family to her and have taught her community values she will cherish forever.

Kiryat Malachi’s first NET@ class graduated this year. Since all classes and all readings are in English, students must have a strong command of listening and reading skills when they start. In K. M., students go for 4 years since their English level is lower than most of the rest of Israel.

This year in Kiryat Malachi, 24 entering 9th graders were chosen through written applications, interviews, and a technical multiple-choice English test. The local coordinator Liat felt that it would also be helpful to have a native English speaker talk to the youth in pairs and verify their levels of English. Having such a conversation would also be a “gift” to the youth as they rarely get a chance to talk English. Many have English classes that are conducted mostly in Hebrew.
Liat, Ben and Howard

Howard Cockerham from Seattle, a middle school science teacher and a volunteer through TIPS, showed up in Kiryat Malachi at the right moment! During a two week period, he met with almost all of the students at least twice. Their English levels and interest in computers varied greatly. One has a website where he answers questions (in English) on games asked by kids all over the world. Another had very limited knowledge of regular English (did not know numbers) and may have a learning disability, but he knew computer terms and would do anything to succeed in the program. Several had good language skills from watching TV in English but knew little about computers. However, they very much wanted to be in the program to have a chance to get ahead in life. Another was a jokester and didn’t take his talks with Howard seriously until his mom (who worked in lower paying jobs) really got on her son’s case. Howard said, these teens were very much like his middle school students at home. He had a nice manner with the youths, and several came back on their own, even going out with him for a pizza.

Howard updated Liat regularly on the youth’s abilities. Armed with that information, she talked with the weaker students and made arrangements for them to get more help before they began a ten-day intensive NET@ camp in mid-August. She was so pleased with the interviews that she told her boss on the national level about them, and NET@ hopes to find more Partnership 2000 volunteers throughout the country next summer to repeat what Howard has done. Howard, meanwhile, has his volunteer job in KM already in place for next summer!

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