On Saturday, June 2, 2018, 40 high school students were honored for completing UW-Madison’s Information Technology Academy (ITA), an initiative to provide intensive technology and college preparatory support to diverse and low-income students. All 40 students in this year’s graduating class were admitted to college. Twenty ITA participants gained admittance to UW-Madison, of whom seventeen will matriculate at UW-Madison in fall 2018. In addition, one student will be attending Stanford University on a Quest Bridge full-tuition scholarship.
The graduation celebration was held at the Gordon Dining and Event Center. This year, ITA Oneida and ITA Lac du Flambeau graduated their second cohort of students. Whereas ITA Madison began 18 years ago and graduated the 15th cohort of students, ITA Oneida and ITA Lac du Flambeau began four years ago to serve Native American communities in Wisconsin. ITA Madison meets regularly face to face, while ITA Oneida and ITA Lac du Flambeau use a blended learning approach to deliver in-person and online instruction.
During their multi-year ITA experience, the students complete courses to build their academic and leadership skills, to prepare for college, and to explore technology-related careers through a paid internship.
Dr. Reginold Royston delivered the Keynote Address at the graduation event. Dr. Royston is the Assistant Professor of African Cultural Studies and the School of Information and Library Sciences at UW-Madison. “The more I learned,” Mr. Lopez said, “The more I realized that I can complete my mission through innovative technology.” He challenged ITA’s graduates to find their passion, develop a mission, and keep fighting to complete that mission.
This year, three ITA Legacy of Excellence Awards were given, one for each ITA program site. Students from each program site are selected for the Legacy of Excellence Award based on their commitment, scholarship, leadership, and personal growth. Trent Mayo, the recipient from ITA Lac du Flambeau, was celebrated for having a constant positive attitude and an unwavering belief in himself. ITA Oneida’s Dylan Asoh received the award. Although quiet, staff recounted always being able to tell he was thinking critically about the task at hand. Finally, Sarina Vang, a young women with a strong spirit and quiet confidence, was chosen for ITA Madison. Sarina and Dylan will be attending UW-Madison in fall 2018, while Trent pursues studies in information systems security at Fox Valley Technical College.
In addition to receiving the ITA Legacy of Excellence, Trent’s peers elected him to deliver the student speech on behalf of the ITA Lac du Flambeau cohort. Trent reflected on his belief that ITA was a doorway that “had big flashing lights outside” and that promised “family, love, and support.” “Inside that door,” he said, was “a crazy map that told me how to apply for college and financial aid and more than enough information to be anything I wanted.”
ITA Madison graduate student speaker, Gaoza (Jennifer) Xiong, reflected on how she and her peers learned what they like to do, “Some have taken an interest in the language of coding, others have branched off to picking apart software to produce art, music, videos, or even 3D models.”
ITA Oneida student speaker Paige Skenandore shared reflections about ITA’s one-week Senior Residential Experience on campus in summer 2017, “From that point on, we were no longer just classmates. We are one big family. One big nerd family.”
ITA congratulates all 2018 graduates and wishes them continued success in their academics.