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Program shows kids they can’t turn their backs on the future
by Michelle Zewin
Apr 16, 2008 | 1259 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Juan Andrade, document control officer of Server Technology, shows Luis Cerros, 12, around the assembly line.
Tribune/Tony Contini Juan Andrade, document control officer of Server Technology, shows Luis Cerros, 12, around the assembly line.
<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Luis Cerros, seventh grader at Dilworth elementary, labels and documents parts at Server Technology.
Tribune/Tony Contini Luis Cerros, seventh grader at Dilworth elementary, labels and documents parts at Server Technology.
Amid the production line, stock and office workers roamed Luis Cerros, who at 5 feet 3 inches, doesn’t appear to be in the right place.

But he is.

For the next nine weeks, Cerros, 12, is joining the workers of Server Technology, at 1040 Sandhill Drive in Reno, to learn the ropes of a company that designs and manufactures power distribution products.

As part of the Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada’s Back to the Future program, the 7th grader at Dilworth Middle School is getting hands-on work experience. The program places students in work environments ranging from clinics and nursing homes to cable television offices.

“It’s almost like an internship,” said Jim Murphy, president of Junior Achievement. “It gives them a vision for what they want to do. It plants some seeds for their future.”

Cerros is the third student that JA has brought to Server Technology.

“We had such a good experience with the first one that we told Jim to keep sending them,” said Amber Boster, the human resources coordinator at Server Technology.

Boster said the Back to the Future program is great for students because it allows them to get a real sense of what it’s like to work at the company.

“I wish more companies participated in this program,” Boster said. “We have the chance to say something to these kids that will hopefully stick with them.”

Juan Andrade, the document control officer at Server Technology and the man who Cerros is shadowing and assisting, said he wished he had a program like this when he was growing up in Los Angeles.

“As a teen I was in gangs,” Andrade said. “I didn’t have this opportunity or at least I didn’t know about it. When I first heard of this I thought, ‘Wow, what an exciting program.’ It’s something that will challenge their minds, their way of life.”

Andrade added that it is usually one’s environment that leads young people off a successful path.

“It’s ... the surroundings that pull you down,” Andrade said. “And that’s what happened to me.”

JA seeks to not only keep kids out of trouble but to enable them to become effective workers.

“It teaches them hard skills and soft skills,” Murphy said. “It’s important that they learn both.”

Murphy described soft skills as the traits that employers look for in employees such as proper dress attire and promptness. Hard skills refer to the skills needed to actually do the job.

“They’re getting a sense of what work is all about,” Andrade said. “Not chores but real work.”

And sometimes work isn’t fun. Andrade said that once he showed Cerros how math is necessary in his job to make sure all the parts go together correctly.

“At that point he got kind of bored,” Andrade said.

A smirk came to Cerros’ face as he remembered this and he nodded in agreement.

“See, math comes back,” Boster said to Cerros with a laugh. “It doesn’t just end once you’re out of school.”

But even if doing math isn’t at the top of Cerros’ list of things to do after school, he’s still enjoying the program.

“I have fun here,” Cerros said. “I like organizing the files and playing with Juan. He buys me candy.”

After JA dropped Cerros off at Server Technology Wednesday afternoon following school, Cerros was put straight to work. First Andrade and Cerros examined some updated documents. Andrade told Cerros that the most important thing is to make sure the product is correct.

“And they have to be consistent,” Andrade added.

The two then made their way to the production room where they handed the line-leaders the updated papers. After delivering the papers to the office workers, as well, the two went to the warehouse in search of some parts. Looking on, Andrade once again spoke fondly of the JA Back to the Future program.

“This is teaching them that there is a real world out there,” Andrade said. “They may have their iPods and cell phones but they need to learn that one day they’ll have to earn (those things).”
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