The Merced Union High School District is using a new approach when it comes to fixing computers – students get to do the work and they get paid for it.

District officials revealed a new Chromebook repair laboratory on Tuesday at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater where students can work. The new lab is complete with a 3-D printer, capabilities for a video-conference projection, storage and individual work stations that include computer tools, flash drives and power and USB outlets.

The new lab will be used by a handful of students from throughout the district as they work from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. Students will work on getting Chromebooks used by students ready to operate once the school year begins.

For the past two school years, high school students have done the repairs on district Chromebooks. But through the summer program, they also will get paid $10 an hour, a system that the district’s IT manager, Anthony Thomas, said he believes is new to the Valley.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do for college my senior year,” said Seana Keegan, a 2016 Buhach graduate. “I took two computer classes my senior year and fell in love with computers. I think it’s so important to get a head start on these things and have real-world experience. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Students started with simple repairs in their classes and used manuals to help with more complex issues, such as repairing a mother board, Keegan said.

Some students also will work at El Capitan High, which is scheduled to receive a repair lab as well.

School district officials hope the skills students learn in high school will give them a step up after graduation, helping them land jobs and internships.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year talking about CTE (career technical education),” said Alan Peterson, MUHSD superintendent. “That means hands-on classes that provide real-life skills for students after they graduate from this district. CTE opportunities need to be as varied as our communities are and as our student population.”

The district is partnering with Cisco Systems Inc., a network infrastructure company, and Fortinet, a company that offers fast and secure cyber solutions. About 20 students who have taken computer classes became certified to fix Dell products, and district officials hope a similar opportunity will be available with Cisco.

“The whole purpose is to give kids opportunities,” Thomas said. “We want to teach them to dream beyond what they know.”

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