Reflecting on Information Technology Academy Milestones in 2019

With 2019 coming to a close, the Information Technology Academy (ITA) staff and students reflect upon the major milestones that occurred over the past year. That included celebrating 42 ITA graduates, learning and bonding during summer activities, kicking off the new academic year, and showcasing student work at the annual holiday luncheon. 

As the 2018-19 academic year concluded, ITA hosted the 16th Annual Graduation Ceremony on June 1, 2019 for the 42 ITA Lac du Flambeau, ITA Madison and ITA Oneida graduates. The event included student speakers including Lilly Scott from ITA Madison, Mason Holmquist from ITA Lac du Flambeau and Elena Hill from ITA Oneida. The three speakers also read a poem by Kahlil Gibran. 

ITA staff honored the graduates with Technology Services Manager AJ Daughtry Krill presenting their technology transcripts, Associate Outreach Specialist Bobbi Skenandore handing out ITA diplomas, and ITA Executive Director Ron Jetty awarding the Legacy Award to Myrna Smith from ITA Lac du Flambeau, Cimfeng Lee from ITA Madison and Gavin Stingle from ITA Oneida.

Dr. Nicole Bowman, President of Bowman Performance Consulting, delivered the keynote address with words of inspiration to the graduates and families in attendance. All 42 ITA graduates are currently enrolled in college; of which half are enrolled at UW-Madison. 

Soon after the June celebration, ITA kicked off the summer camps in each of the communities as well as the senior residential experience, which has rising seniors from all three ITA programs stay on the UW-Madison campus for a week. 

During the week, students spent 3 days learning about business pitches, forming groups, identifying a problem they see in their community, determining a technology business solution, pitching to mentors for feedback, and finally pitching at the Play Make Learn conference on August 13 at 14 at UW-Madison’s Union South. 

The Play Make Learn conference promotes high-quality learning opportunities for educators, researchers, developers, designers, foundation leaders, policy makers, museum and library professionals, and school leaders who are dedicated to promoting making, gaming, and playful learning. Play Make Learn provides hands-on workshops that engage the audience in cutting-edge learning science ideas and experience; keynote speakers who have expertise in communicating state-of-the-art design, education, and research; demonstrations of new and upcoming games and technology; and networking opportunities meant to spark new projects.

With the excitement from the summer, ITA students buzzed right into the 2019-20 academic year in September with their weekend cohort meetings for ITA Lac du Flambeau and ITA Oneida and the Saturday sessions for ITA Madison. Students are busy in academic courses of Leadership, Study Skills, ACT Prep, and College Prep. As well as their Tech courses Computer Optimization, Repair, and Support (CORS), Visual Asset Creation, Web Publishing, Video Production, Sound Design, Data Visualization, IT Infrastructure, Programming, and Senior Capstone. With ITA support, 36 of the 46 seniors have submitted early action applications to UW-Madison!

On December 7, ITA held the 20th Annual Holiday Luncheon. The afternoon opened with Ho-Chunk Land acknowledgement provided by Michael Williams, 2017 ITA graduate and current UW-Madison student, as well as a welcome song by the Ho-Chunk Renegades drum group. The program featured student tech project presentations and performances from the three ITA sites, and a special keynote address from Dr. Hazel Symonette, a founding ITA Advisory Board member who has served on the board for 20 years. The afternoon was noted as being one of the most joyful luncheons to date.

The past year has been filled with joy and accomplishments and we look forward to 2020, which marks the 20th year of Information Technology Academy. In 2000, ITA Madison’s first cohort of 17 students were recruited as part of a UW-Madison diversity initiative. Since then, two new programs serving the Oneida and Lac du Flambeau communities were launched in 2013 and 355 ITA students have graduated with 187 of those being admitted to UW-Madison.