In Jackson, Expertise Pays Off for Some

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The nine students in the original Microsoft training class at Jackson Hole High School here were a mixed bag academically. Some were doing poorly and had been designated "at risk," while others had done well in a traditional classroom.

Three have graduated, including Mike Arnold, 20, who is making $21,000 a year as a Microsoft trainer at Bliss Computer Services in Jackson. The two other graduates are continuing their computer studies at Central Wyoming Community College in Riverton, Wyo. One works part time for almost $8 an hour running the computer network at the Riverton branch of the National Weather Service.

Nineteen-year-old Joe Moore, meanwhile, left high school without a diploma but later finished the General Educational Development program. Mr. Moore, who had been classified as a special education student, said that if Jackson Hole High hadn't given him the chance to join the Microsoft program, "I would have dropped out [of school] before my junior year was over."

A New Outlook

Mr. Moore worked briefly for Bliss Computer Services while in high school but now does clerical and some computer work in his father's law office for $7 an hour. He credits the computer class with changing his attitude about learning.

In the Microsoft class, Mr. Moore said, he proved to his teachers and peers that "I wasn't a complete waste of space." He passed his first networking-certification exam, and he continues to take classes from his high school teacher, Jim Meacham, who opens his classes to adults who are earning credit from the local community college.

Two other students of the original class who are still in high school have found summer or part-time employment thanks to their computer skills. Miranda Hoff, 17, helped the computer-network administrator at Unilink, a Jackson software developer, last summer for $8 an hour. Jeff Palmer, 16, works three hours every afternoon repairing computers for C-Tech, a computer-services company. He's paid $6.75 an hour.

One student in the original class--Melannie Lovercheck, a junior--has not yet tried to get a computer-related job, but she has continued to take whatever Microsoft classes Mr. Meacham offers.

"I take the class because I know I need it, not because I like it," she said. "But I'm starting to like it."

The 18-year-old is hoping her computer skills will be a feather in her cap when she applies to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Another student in the original Microsoft class dropped out of high school before graduating, but after he passed the first Microsoft test. The school has lost contact with him as well as another student.

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