This youth development program empowers students to become technology leaders.
The world is small when you’re young, and for many kids, the only jobs that seem to exist belong to celebrities and athletes. This is certainly what I believed growing up.
But as the new millennium dawned, my world was about to get bigger — and a youth development organization known as MOUSE was about to change my life.
MOUSE’s flagship program, MOUSE Squad, had just started in three New York City schools, and I was lucky enough to attend one of those schools. The program, which has since grown to involve more than 4,000 students in 350 schools across the country, gives young people an opportunity to play a valued technology support role in their schools, while also developing the life and leadership skills that prepare them for future success.
Moving Up and On
As one of the 20 students who first participated in New York City’s MOUSE Squad program, I came to realize the importance of personal computers, which had only recently become affordable, and the burgeoning Internet, which would ultimately revolutionize the way people consume and share information.
Our primary responsibility as MOUSE Squad members was to handle technical issues in our schools. I remember reviewing my tech support caseload during lunch and sometimes sacrificing my weekends to set up computers and other technology in my school. When I wasn’t working on tech issues, I researched and learned as much about technology as I could. Through MOUSE, I even interned at Sony/Columbia Records and shadowed a tech support representative at the brokerage firm Solomon Smith Barney.
For some schools, it’s hard to keep students coming to class every day. But my school struggled to keep me out. Participating in MOUSE Squad provided a window to a bigger world, one in which Manhattan’s buildings were filled with opportunity.
"But MOUSE Squad does far more than just give students work experience by turning them into their school’s technology help desk. It uses technology as a means of engaging students and promoting leadership, teamwork and responsibility." -- Juan Garzon
Throughout the year, MOUSE holds “Unplugged Events” that introduce students to different areas of technology, such as podcast production and basic robotics. The biggest event, MOUSE Team Training, provides an overview of computer hardware, networking, leadership and web operations. MOUSE provides the environment and the knowledge for this event, but the students run the show. They are encouraged to speak up, even when they aren’t certain of the answers. It’s one of the few events where you can see students transform over the course of a single day.
Full of Promise
I had so much fun in the two years I participated in MOUSE Squad that I was convinced I hadn’t actually done anything. I didn’t recognize my own transformation until it was complete.
After my first year on the squad, I was honored as a “MOUSE Champion of Technology and Education.” At the awards ceremony, I gave my first public speech, in which I promised myself and the 500 technology professionals attending that I would one day start my own company and support MOUSE in any way possible.
I fulfilled both promises just a few short years later. In 2006, I started my own company, and in 2007, I joined MOUSE as a full-time field support representative. I continue to serve the organization today as its senior training specialist. In that role, I train students to use technology and give them the same feeling of accomplishment, self-confidence and purpose that MOUSE gave me more than 10 years ago. It’s been gratifying to come full circle.
When It Clicks
MOUSE research confirms that the MOUSE Squad program helps participants become better students and develop the 21st century skills they’ll need to succeed in college and the workforce. MOUSE Squad members reported that the program:
- improved their team-building (92 percent), communication (91 percent) and problem-solving (88 percent) skills;
- improved their sense of responsibility (92 percent);
- increased their confidence (91 percent);
- better prepared them for college (85 percent) and career (84 percent);
- increased their likelihood of attending college (81 percent);
- motivated them to improve overall performance at school (80 percent);
- and inspired them to pursue technology careers (78 percent).
About the Author
Juan Garzon is a 2002 graduate of the Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Secondary School for Arts and Technology in Queens, N.Y., and the founder of Zong Services, a web design firm based in Elmhurst, N.Y. He also is the senior training specialist at MOUSE.
Read this article in EdTech Magazine.