Whiz kids dig into new technologies and opportunities

OSU Extension 4-H Tech Wizards program teaches computer skills and community service. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)
OSU Extension 4-H Tech Wizards program teaches computer skills and community service. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

Eva Zamudio learned to film and edit videos using professional equipment as part of the Oregon State University Extension Service's 4-H Tech Wizards program in Washington County. “We didn’t just sit,” said the high school senior, who first became involved in the program as a freshman. “We actually learned things we could pursue or do – just for the fun of it.”

Students in the program learn to create websites, produce videos and podcasts, make computerized maps, and build robots. They are also required to perform 15 hours of community service each year in tech-related fields, said Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas, the 4-H faculty member in Washington County.

Launched in 1998, this bilingual afterschool program teaches technological skills to low-income students in grades 6 through 12 who are considered at risk of dropping out of school. To date, about 1,000 students have participated in the program, about 95 percent have graduated from high school, and about 70 percent of those have pursued more education in science, technology, engineering, or math.

“I didn’t see going to college as a possibility at first, but the more I learned, the more I thought about going,” said Zamudio, who now plans to attend college after graduation. “Tech Wizards led me that way, but didn’t push.” The program has received a U.S. Congressional Award for Youth Service and funding from many sources.

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