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This summer, an innovative program in San Antonio is teaching economically disadvantaged high school students to learn web site design and development while giving college students an opportunity to manage a team. The end product of their collaboration will provide local small businesses with web sites.

The two-year, multi-partner Synergistic Electronic Commerce (SynreCom) program is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation program. Participants in this community collaboration include the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), Edgewood Independent School District (EISD), Our Lade of the Lake University (OLLU), and TEKSA Innovations Corp.

Twenty-eight students from Edgewood ISD (14 student mothers and 14 students interested in technology careers) and 14 students from the Electronic Commerce and Information Systems program at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) have been grouped into seven Technology Business Assistance Teams (TBATs). Each TBAT consists of four high school students and two OLLU e-commerce student managers who create a web site for one startup company. Seven TEKSA Innovations Portfolio Companies are participating in the project this summer.

Clients from last year’s version of the program offer positive feedback. “The undertaking of this project, which was a daunting task for the students at first, quickly became a fun project and boosted their confidence and creative abilities. It was a positive experience for the students and our company,” said Dr. Jeffrey Barnes, Chief Science Office, Probetex, Inc.

“Once the students have learned the skills, the teams literally go to work for their clients: small businesses that need e-commerce applications,” says Program Manager Deborah Webb. “It is a real-world situation. The students even receive a stipend to allow them to focus on their project, without worrying about earning an income.”

The program offers many rewards to its participants, including technical knowledge, access to social services, information about career opportunities, guidance toward higher education in the future, and regular exposure to business professionals. Students who participate need to possess only two qualities: a desire to better themselves and the potential to succeed.

“We’re in the second year of the two-year program, and we are seeing real signs of its success,” Webb says. “None of our students have dropped out of school. Two of our teen mothers have been offered jobs and are working part-time while finishing high school. And for one participant, the wages he earned during the program were his family’s sole source of income.”

The students will complete their projects and deliver final presentations to their clients on Tuesday, July 16.

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Kathy Fraser

Director of Marketing and Communications

…an outstanding training experience. The instructors were great and the facility is world-class…These exercises provided a sense of realism and intensity as if they were unfolding right on the streets before us.

— Capt. Joseph Czentnar, Client, Wallingford (CT) Fire Department
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