(Fairfax County Times, by Angela Woolsey)
When she moved to Fairfax County in fifth grade, Etissa started taking computer science and coding classes, but she says the Genesys Works program showed her how much more she had to learn.

“I knew IT, but once you get into it, there’s more complex things to learn,” Etissa said. “In some ways, it’s challenging to me, because it’s very different from school, and also they do it in a fun way, so that’s been great too.”

In addition to introducing participants to the IT field, Genesys Works helps students learn and practice skills essential to working in a professional environment, giving them tips on public speaking, building relationships and networking, and even giving a good handshake.

Because they can be applied to any job or workplace, many of the participants in the Aug. 11 morning training session cited the time spent on developing professional skills as the most beneficial part of the program.

“A highlight would be learning how to do presentations and how to speak up and be comfortable around people,” Tatyana Courtney, another Mount Vernon student, said. “Now I’m able to speak to more people and speak up a little louder than what I did before I was in this program, and it became fun to me to speak to different people and meet different people.”

Upon completing the program, participants got paid IT internships at one of the businesses that has agreed to partner with Genesys Works, including AT&T, Accenture, Ernst & Young and Strayer Education.

The internships started Aug. 29 and last throughout the students’ senior years at high school.

Even though the training program is over, Genesys Works continues to help students work on college applications and assists them in getting financial aid, since cost is a significant obstacle to many of them when it comes to attending college.

The Genesys Works program reflects the overall direction that FCPS has been heading over the past few years, combining an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills with efforts to make education more affordable and inclusive.

“It’s really about how students see themselves and what they see as their potential and the opportunity,” Garza said. “IT was the perfect skill area to focus on, because it crosses all sectors. Every business, every industry, every workplace has technical IT needs, so that’s why it makes sense. Plus, the students are developing skills that will help them when they go off to college.”

Though this first year of the program focused only on six schools, it could expand to include an estimated 400 students annually in the future as Genesys Works starts to recruit at more schools and more companies agree to offer internship spots.

“I think this first year will be such a huge success, [and] I’m confident this program will continue for many years to come,” Garza said.

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