Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 02-13-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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PAWTUCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | FEBRUARY 13-19, 2019 IN OUR SCHOOLS 5 PAWTUCKET – A new academy at Shea High School will give stu- dents the opportunity to explore the world of computer science, giving them a boost if they choose to pur- sue a career in the growing industry. The Computer Science Academy, currently in its first full year, will allow students to take computer sci- ence courses, gain hands-on experi- ence working with local companies, receive college credits through the University of Rhode Island and earn certification. "I am very excited," Sherrie- Lynne Belanger, a math and com- puter science teacher who will serve as director of the academy, told The Breeze. "It's not just something I wish I would have had in high school. It's something that I see as a chance for students in an inner-city school to have above everybody else." Belanger, who's taught at Shea for 16 years, said the school has begun phasing in the four-year program and is currently waiting to receive CTE certification through the Rhode Island Department of Education. She said she expects to hear an answer by the end of the school year. She said she jumped at the chance to give Shea students a "taste" of computer science "to see if it's something they want to do." "There are thousands of (comput- er science) jobs every year in this country going unfilled because we don't have anyone certified to do those jobs," she added. "The chance to be on the forefront of these posi- tions is fantastic." To help fill some of these jobs across the state, Gov. Gina Raimondo launched an initiative in 2016 called Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) with the goal to "bring high quality computer science learning experiences to all students." For Shea 10th-grader Elianny Pena, a career in tech or engineer- ing is in her future, she told The Breeze. She said she likes the "hands- on" experience that computer sci- ence provides. "If you fail, then you try again until you accomplish something," she said. In a partnership with the University of Rhode Island, stu- dents will receive college credits for the computer science courses they take. Belanger said students who complete the program should end up with enough credits to equal three or four courses, or a semes- ter's worth of college. "If (students) decide it's not what they want to do, they're still going to college with almost a full semes- ter of credits for free," Belanger said. Shea currently offers two full-year courses: Intro to Computing and Data Science and AP Computer Science Principles. Approximately 20 students, mostly freshmen, are enrolled in the intro course, while 14 sophomores, juniors and seniors are in AP, Belanger said. Seniors taking computer science classes won't have time to complete the academy, but juniors will have the chance to receive a certification and sophomores "will have a better chance of finishing the whole pro- gram," Belanger said. Shea will be one of the only schools in the area offering these classes as part of a CTE program, at least through URI, she said. Tolman High School doesn't have an acad- emy but offers Intro to Computing and Data Science as a half-year course. Though computer science has been a historically male-dominated field, over the past two years that Shea has offered the AP class, Belanger said enrollment of female students has grown, so that the number of female and male students taking the class is close to even. "We've picked up quite a few female students," she said. "The girls that we have are very driven. They're fascinated by computers." Before attending Shea, 10th-grader Breona Paon said she knew what computer science was but "never saw myself programming and doing that." Now she said she plans to study computer science in college. "I think more people should get involved," Paon said, adding that programming is "pretty fun (and) wasn't as difficult as people make it seem." Next year, students in the acad- emy will have the option to take a cybersecurity course. Two other classes, Apps Programming and Professional Software Development, will be offered starting in the 2021-22 school year. Belanger said they're working closely with URI on these courses. "They helped us organize every- thing," she said. Students in the software develop- ment class will work with local com- panies, including Hasbro, Collette, Pawtucket Credit Union, the PawSox, the Department of Health, and the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce. By completing projects for these companies, students will gain field experience through designing and building apps or websites or com- pleting other programming needs. "We may have students do that with the Pawtucket School Department, which would be really awesome," Belanger said. She said she has support from the district, which will cover the cost of new hardware, including laptops and tablets, and software programs. Any student can join the academy without prior computer science knowledge. New academy gives Shea High School students sample of computer science By MELANIE THIBEAULT Valley Breeze Staff Writer melanie@valleybreeze.com

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