Jun 172011

By Teri Walker–

Since launching its free technology education program, Project SOAR, in December, the Holbrook School District has enrolled 37 individuals in classes in Holbrook and Indian Wells.

Project SOAR is a federally funded two-year training program intended to provide adults and teens with job skills in various computer and technology fields.

The Holbrook District’s program is currently serving participants ranging in age from 13 to more than 60 years old.

SOAR stands for Success with support, Online learning, Academic achievement and Realization of job skills.

Participants must commit to dedicating a minimum of four hours a week and two years of training to the project, at the end of which program advisors say students should have job-ready skills in career tracks such as IT (information technology) pro, web and graphic design.

In this era of technology, there are still those without a basic understanding of computer operations. SOAR aims to equip individuals with the level of technology training needed for their preferred job choice, or increase knowledge levels so they can be more productive in the workplace.

“One student who attends our classes told me, ‘I didn’t know what computers were. I have seen them in the store and when I go to Wells Fargo. I wanted to get on and look at it’,” said instructor Joy Burroughs.

Project SOAR’s funding is provided by Utah Valley University through a National Science Grant to provide technology training to rural areas.

To date, nine participants have successfully passed certification tests. Thirty-two individuals are participating in the introductory classes and five are in the advanced classes.

Classes focused on developing IT skills meet from 6 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday at the Holbrook Junior High Tech Lab, Room S4. Indian Wells classes meet from 6 to 9 p.m. every Monday.

During the first year of training, students complete a basic computing and technology curriculum. The second year, participants narrow their focus to specific skill sets and certifications they wish to acquire, including media certifications and skills, MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist) certification for college and workplace skills, or IT certifications with higher-level skills offered in the online environment.

“The Holbrook program has been a showcase for the project and is extremely successful,” said Burroughs. “Not only are participants gaining valuable skills for the 21st century, but they are also making new friends in an enjoyable learning environment.”

All courses and certification tests are free for participants.

Individuals interested in participating in Project SOAR may stop by either location during class times or contact project coordinator Ann Gardner at (928) 524-6144, ext. 2075, or by e-mail at agard@holbrook.k12.az.us.