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In today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, it is essential to foster an early interest in Information Technology (IT) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among young students. Recognizing this commitment, UK Information Technology Services (UK ITS) has undertaken various events and initiatives to promote IT careers and provide valuable experiences to K-12 students in central Kentucky. By engaging and inspiring students at an early age, UK ITS hopes to help shape the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. UK ITS staff has already participated in several events and internships in 2023aimed to promote IT and STEM to K-12 students. 

Meeting the Students Where They Are 

Throughout the past year, a series of events were organized with the primary goal of introducing high schoolers to the exciting world of IT careers. Among these events was the Fayette County Public Schools Career Expo, held on January 12 and 13. This Career Expo invited over 3,500 Fayette County high school students to showcase various professions, including IT, providing students with valuable insights into the industry. Jackie Campbell and Jason Wheat of Enterprise Cybersecurity and Jessica McClure of Communications & Strategic Engagement were at the event, hosting a table with information on cybersecurity complete with trivia and prizes. 

Another notable event was the Paul Laurence Dunbar (PLD) High School Next Step Fair, which took place on April 21. The fair offered an opportunity for PLD students to explore potential career paths and connect with professionals in the IT field. By attending the fair, students were able to gain a deeper understanding of the skills and knowledge required for success in the IT industry. Miles Fortner from Networking & Infrastructure and Fame Hale from Customer Support & Student IT Enablement participated in this event, hosting a table for UK ITS. The table included information on starting careers in IT and career paths in the IT industry, including networking. 

Frederick Douglass High School (FDHS) additionally invited UK ITS to their Family Engagement Night, held on April 26. The purpose of this event was to showcase FDHS community partners and give an opportunity for those partners to promote opportunities available for FDHS students. This event encouraged family involvement and provided a supportive environment for students to learn about different careers and internships. By interacting with professionals, students and their families could explore the diverse range of opportunities available within the IT field. Jessica McClure and Marci Adams brought information on careers in IT and answered questions from students and families about opportunities in UK ITS. 

Providing Enriching Experiences Through Internships In addition to attending events, UK ITS has taken the initiative to host interns from Fayette County high schools, allowing students to gain practical experience in IT. Evey Wright and Tara Bose, both from PLD, were among the interns who had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the IT industry. Evey Wright worked with Nick McClure in Enterprise Systems, learning foundational dev ops skills through real-life applications. Tara Bose interned with Paresh Thakkar and Suzanna Bentley in the Customer Support & Student IT Enablement’s Programming team to write code that would add functionalities to a campus map. Through these hands-on projects, mentorship, and exposure to real-world challenges, these interns were able to develop their skills and expand their understanding of IT careers. 

"During my time with UK ITS, I was able to get experience with the way large institutions maintain their technology. I also got to work on my own project and I was able to get one-on-one personal attention and help with it. While making my HolidayEveryday API, I learned to use VisualStudio, C#, Github, and 3rd party APIs. All of this experience was extremely helpful, and I feel more prepared going into a major in computer science and a career in tech." - Evey Wright

Furthermore, UK ITS has hosted several students from the STEAM Academy. These students had the opportunity to gain experience in customer service, working in areas like the Student Media Depot and The Cornerstone to assist UK students, faculty, and staff. By working alongside professionals in a collaborative and innovative environment, these students were able to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios, enhancing their problem-solving abilities and fueling their passion for IT. 

Promoting IT careers and experiences to K-12 students is crucial for nurturing future generations of technologically skilled individuals. Marci Adams, Assistant Director of Communications & Strategic Engagement, hopes that UK ITS continues to invest in promoting IT in young students.  

“Attending an event or hosting an intern is not always the easiest when you are trying to get all your daily work done. I am so grateful to our employees that are willing to take the time to mentor or teach a young student. You never know how much of an impact you can make on a young person’s career goals and interests just by giving them a chance.” 

Through events like the Fayette County Public Schools Career Expo, PLD Next Step Fair, and FDHS Family Engagement Night, students were exposed to the vast possibilities within the IT industry. The internships hosted by organizations such as Dunbar and the STEAM Academy further allowed students to gain practical experience and develop their IT skills. By continuing to invest in initiatives that engage and inspire young minds, UK ITS can help pave the way for a future generation of IT professionals who will drive innovation and shape our world.