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KALAMA — Morgan VanRiper is one of only four high school students in Washington who have mastered Microsoft Office and have the software giant’s certification to prove it.
The 15-year-old Kalama High School sophomore was awarded a $1,000 scholarship earlier this week after completing all certificates in a new Microsoft skills program that began during the 2011-12 academic year. The courses teach students how to use Outlook and PowerPoint, show them how to prepare a variety of documents in MS Word and to develop complex Excel spreadsheets.
“I knew the general stuff, but then I started (the program),” she said. “I didn’t know there was so much to it.”
After completing a series of projects and courses, Morgan scored highly enough on her tests to receive all six of Microsoft’s certificates in Word, Excel, Power-Point, Outlook and advanced courses for Word and Excel.
“Once I set a goal, I want to achieve it,” Morgan said about her choice to stick with the program even though she was required to retake some of the tests. “It’s going to help out a lot with school work and in college. … I like to learn stuff, and it was a good opportunity for me to learn more.”
Morgan was the most accomplished Kalama student, but she wasn’t alone in receiving a certificate. The school had the highest percentage of students in the state to gain at least one certification. Out of 324 students enrolled in individual courses, four received one certificate, 38 received two, eight received three, one received four and another five.
Kathy Schmit, career and technical education teacher at Kalama, said she pushed to emphasize teaching software skills to last year’s ninth-graders as a way of preparing them for the rest of high school and beyond.
Schmit said she was motivated by a conversation with a representative of the local business community who lamented that students were being graduated from area high schools without the software proficiencies that would have made them more attractive job applicants.
“They’re coming out knowing how to use their smartphone and text,” she said. “They think they’re technology savvy because they can upload pictures to Facebook, but the things they learn here are things they need to know in the workplace or if they want to move on in their education. It’s huge for them.”
Morgan agreed with Schmit, saying she’s already used the skills she learned to help her father with a project. She also feels her MS Office skills will be a large boost when she attends college to become a dental hygenist.
Schmit said the program is a great opportunity for all Kalama students regardless of their college plans.
“Even if they choose not to go to college, it shows businesses they have these skills. There isn’t a business that doesn’t use Office,” she said. “It is about what you know and whether you can perform, but there are some hoops you have to jump through for some doors to open.”