Microsoft Technology Champion Awards: Information Technology Students Head Back to Class with Better Chance for Success

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 23, 1999 — When John-Thomas Reed and Benjamin Kennedy return to community college this fall, the future will look a little brighter. Severe health problems forced both Reed and Kennedy to seek new careers, and the support they will receive as two of this year’s Microsoft Technology Champion Awards recipients will go a long way toward helping them realize their goals of pursuing careers in the information technology (IT) industry.

As part of its commitment to promoting technology training in the nation’s community colleges, Microsoft established these awards last fall to honor the League for Innovation in the Community College on its 30th anniversary and to help students pursue IT careers. League member institutions nominated students identified by faculty, and the Microsoft Technology Champion Award winners were named in May at the League’s Innovations Conference. To qualify, Technology Champions had to be technology enthusiasts who demonstrate excellent academic motivation and generosity in sharing their learning with others. Financial need was also a consideration.

“This is one more way Microsoft is trying to help address the IT workforce shortage and support students at the same time,”
said Diana Carew, manager of community college programs for Microsoft’s Education Group.
“Students are at the center of everything the League for Innovation and community colleges do. We felt the award program was a fitting tribute to the League for their commitment to making a difference in students’ lives.”

John-Thomas Reed’s life changed dramatically when a series of health problems forced him to rethink his future and, finally, to make a major mid-life career change. A serious bicycle accident in 1988 ruptured his spleen and led to radical brain surgery, but Reed managed to recover from his injuries and resume his successful career as a chef, caterer and restaurant owner. But when Reed later developed severe arthritis in both knees, he realized he could not continue working in a profession that required him to be on his feet all the time. Building on his growing fascination with computer systems he had been encountering in the food and beverage industry, Reed turned to his local community college in Dallas, Texas, to pursue a technology career.

After a year at El Centro College, Reed, 42, has completed 60 hours toward degrees in Personal Computer Support and AS/400 Computer Center Management while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. Active in student and technology organizations on campus, Reed also is a dedicated worker and volunteer in El Centro College’s computer lab, tutoring and helping other students develop their computer skills. His $10,000 award from Microsoft will enable Reed to graduate next spring, complete both Microsoft and Cisco certification courses, and move on to a four-year college to complete his bachelor’s degree.

“Microsoft has given me such a wonderful opportunity with this award,”
Reed said.
“Starting a new career in the information technology field is really what I want to do; I’ve found it to be rewarding and challenging. I really don’t want to leave school for a full-time job until I think I’ve gotten everything out of it, and this award will help make that possible.”

Benjamin Kennedy, 30, faced similar hardships with health problems and the additional financial challenges of supporting a young family that includes three preschool-aged children. While on active duty with the U.S. Army, Kennedy developed bone cancer in his right leg. When chemotherapy and other treatments failed, Kennedy’s leg was amputated above the knee; he was fitted with prosthesis, and given an honorable discharge and medical retirement from the military.

Although cancer closed some doors in Kennedy’s life, education has opened many new windows of opportunity for him as he pursues a new IT career at Delta College in University City, Mich.

Kennedy has completed nearly 30 credits toward an associate degree in Computer Science and Information Technology with a programming option, while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and working as a peer mentor and tutor for other students taking programming classes at Delta College. His $3,000 award from Microsoft will help Kennedy complete his associate degree and work toward becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer — and perhaps one day realize his dream of owning his own programming and consulting business.

“The nomination letters we received for the Microsoft Student Technology Champion Award were overwhelming,”
Carew said.
“These students truly demonstrate the importance that community colleges play in workforce development. We’re so impressed with this year’s award recipients and look forward to continuing the program.”

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