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Amira Nolan Sets a Milestone in CHS Information Technology Program


                While Cleburne Information Technology instructor DeWayne Hawpe has a lengthy list of students who have passed the industry-standard CompTIA A+ certification exam, his program has passed a new milestone, achieved by senior Amira Nolan.

Nolan is the first female Career and Technical Education student at Cleburne High School to add her name to Hawpe’s IT “Wall of Fame.” Graduating with the A+ certification was a goal for Nolan, and she is hopeful more girls will now join her.

                “I didn’t know I had the chance to be the high school’s first girl to get the A+ plus certification,” she said. “When we had eighth graders from Wheat and Smith visit our campus, I told them more girls should consider IT. I would like to see more in this program.”

                “I do feel honored to be the first, considering how long this program has been in place at the high school,” Nolan said. “I really wanted to get this certification because I knew it could guarantee a lot, in going into IT as a career. I can’t wait to get into the job market—to get out there and begin applying for jobs. I’m excited to make money in something I chose for a career.”

                While the CompTIA A+ certification isn’t the only industry credential available to CHS students on the IT pathway, it’s viewed as a major “plus” by those in the field. The certification is recognized world-wide and reflects a mastery of skills relating to hardware, operating systems, troubleshooting, networking, security, mobile devices, operational procedures and virtualization and cloud computing.

                “One reason I chose the IT pathway was because I love working hands-on and working on equipment while also getting some real-world experience,” Nolan said. “What we get here doesn’t get any more real, unless we were actually out there working.”

                “I know this will be a benefit in landing a job,” she said. “When I graduate in May, I will have three years of experience in computer maintenance--troubleshooting, diagnosing, finding a solution, then fixing the problem. All this has also helped me in preparing for and passing the A+ certification exam.”

                Nolan decided to focus on IT following her tour of the high school’s CTE facilities as a Wheat MS eighth grader. The stop in the IT learning spaces, and hearing what Hawpe had to say about the program, motivated her to take the introductory class as a freshman.

                “Mr. Hawpe convinced me IT was a great career opportunity,” she said. “I have always been a gamer, but information from Mr. Hawpe regarding a career in technology, what we would learning in his classes—and the certifications we could receive—fit right in for what I wanted for myself.”

                “From the first time I came into this program as a freshman, I knew I wanted to be successful,” Nolan said. “When Mr. Hawpe told us we would need technicians in the future, it made sense. We’re continuing to transition in technology. It’s definitely something we need now, and in the future, as we look for faster, easier and cleaner ways to preserve data.”

                Hawpe said he never doubted Nolan’s ability to pass the A+ exam because of all the work she put in studying and preparing.

                “I knew she could do it,” he said. “We have a lot of students with the ability to succeed. But Amira was also willing to do the work. A lot of times we have girls get in here and do the work, but Amira has been the only one to show the drive to succeed at all costs.”

 “I think it’s just great that she is the first of the girls in our program to gain this certification. Maybe that will attract more girls,” Hawpe said. “I know she’s not the only female techie out there.”

Nolan had the opportunity to put what she learned after three years in IT to work as a summer intern in the district’s IT Department. She took it upon herself to approach Executive Director Mike Wallace about the possibility of a summer job.

“Amira called me and asked for an interview,” Wallace said. “I felt that would be a good experience for her. She met with me and several on our team and she really impressed us. I wound up offering her an internship. She spent most of her time making repairs to the Chromebooks used by our students--and she did a great job.”

“I thought Amira showed a lot of initiative in asking to work in our department,” Wallace said. “It doesn’t surprise me that she passed the A+ certification exam. She has a good head on her shoulders. She knows what she wants and goes after it.”

While Nolan has now checked off that goal, she’s not done. As a sophomore she passed the TestOut PC Pro exam in computer maintenance and is currently preparing for the TestOut Network Pro certification.

“What I appreciate about Amira is she listened to my advice, then went on to set goals for herself,” Hawpe said. “She has initiative, she stuck to her goals and never gave up—and now has the skills and certifications that will take her where she wants to go. I tell the kids in my class that by excelling in here, they are making a choice between a job in a field that is endless with possibilities, versus one in which they may never feel fulfilled.”

“I have never felt like I’m in here just for the class credit,” Nolan said. “This is definitely my future, but it’s not just about a career and a salary. It’s knowing things that a lot of people don’t. Technology is the way things are running these days, and it’s booming. I feel I’m in control to determine what I want to learn and achieve—and be.”