Nonprofit provides free IT training to young adults in underserved communities

Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | September 23, 2020 | Business, Social
Before covid, dozens of students were in classes. Now they're all virtual and organizers say that helps

Rutgers senior Diane Akasike was searching for an information technology training program to take in addition to her college classes.

“I just know that this is something that can really change the course of my life,” Akasike said. “Not because I didn’t feel like my college education was doing enough, but as a minority student, as a black woman, a person from an underserved community, I just know I need to do more,”

The problem? All the programs she could find cost $10,000 to $12,000 to enroll.

“I use financial aid to go to school, I couldn’t afford it,” Akasike said.

Her mom offered to take out a loan but Akasike wasn’t sure if that was the right decision.

“They paid for my tuition outside of financial aid,” Akasike said. “When I came across Npower, I was honestly so grateful.”

Npower is a national nonprofit that offers free information technology and technical training to people ages 18 to 25 from underserved communities, as well as military veterans and their spouses. The nonprofit even provides computers to students who don’t access to technology.

Sereyna Wallace is the placement director.

“We know that there are some students, some tech trainees, in the underserved communities that may need additional resources, so not only are we there for them for social support, not only are we there providing the career service and professional development, but we’re providing the technology resources as they emerge,” Wallace said. “They can go into help desk, they can go into analyst roles, they can also go into entry-level project management, networking roles, so it’s really a vast option of professional opportunities that can open the door. Nationally, we have a 85% success rate.”

There are a total of 80 students enrolled in the Newark and Jersey City campuses but since the pandemic, Npower has gone completely virtual. Wallace says that plays to the students advantage.

“There’s a greater demand for remote-based talent and our students are exposed to a robust curriculum but also very comprehensive and enriched online learning platform, so they’re more marketable,” Wallace said.

By the time Diane Akasike completes the 23-week program, which is part technical instruction, part internship, she’ll have two to three essential information technology certificates. The Newark native is three weeks in, so far.

“A lot of things I’ve learned in this program, such as using servers and databases, I’ve never even touched that in college,” Akasike said.

It’s not easy juggling two schools and working most days from 9 a.m to 11 p.m but she says she won’t give up.

“Because I just have to look for a brighter future for myself and my family,” Akasike said.

And she says that makes it all worth it.