Square Tech – IT Training for Boston Youth

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square tech steam boston

Square Tech is located in the heart of the Castle Square community in Boston’s South End. Square Tech’s mission is to provide youth with basic hands-on IT training; develop youths’ 21st century skills; and help bridge the economic digital divide.

Square Tech’s Teen Internship

The Square Tech Teen Program is a paid internship that recruits Boston teens between ages of 14 – 19 while providing training in technology and business focused workshops.

This tech-based youth program engineers a foundation of learning and developing skills through a series of technology and business based training workshops. Youth then apply their learned IT training to refurbish computers, which are then available for suggested donation. This effectively increases affordable access to technology to some of Boston’s most unconnected communities. Held in one of CSTO’s spaces, our young people are learning skills to become successful in the technology field while building lasting friendships with their peers and adults.​ These young people are learning the necessary skills to become successful, thriving members of society.

To learn more, please contact Irene Matos Chan Square Tech Training and Senior IT Administrative Services Manager at [email protected] or call 617-874-1579.


This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Will:

Tell us a little about your organization.

Irene:

The board of the Castle Square Tenants Organization was founded in 1985. The board consists of residents and one non-resident, Deborah Backus, the executive director. I was actually a former resident of Castle Square and my parents and my mother-in-law actually still live here.

Let me tell you about my story. I went to a program at Castle Square that offered computer classes to residents and I graduated from the program. Now, I am working for a company that actually taught me computer skills. I went to school and got my certifications in A+ and Net+. I have been with Castle Square for a little over 12 years. I am now the Senior IT Administrative Service Manager at Square Tech. I took over this position over five years ago and I have been working on making Square Tech grow as a company. Square Tech started off as a computer repair clinic and now we have a teen internship program (Intro to Technology and Intro A/V).

I’m proud to say that the Intro to Technology program can take up to 14 youth and we just added the Intro to A/V this year. Thanks to the City of Boston for the Digital Equity Fund, we got to house 10 students in the Intro to A/V program and they got to go to the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) to take classes and get college credit. Then they get hands-on training. For the student’s DIY project, they were able to make a monitor from spare parts. The Intro to Tech students got to work on RPG Maker (PC Game Creator) and learn PC hardware skills. The professors at BFIT also taught them computer networking. I taught business and customer service to the students. This was my opportunity to give back to the community that taught me computer classes. This summer, we are celebrating 10 years. Let me pass it on to Phu Tran, who will be talking about the Intro to A/V program and the projects that the students worked on.

Phu:

My name is Phu Tran and I am the Square Tech Social Enterprise and Information Systems Manager. My main goal is to focus on the business side of Square Tech and supply the residents of Boston (mainly low-income) with tech support. This fall, I applied the PC hardware curriculum over to the students in the Intro to A/V program. The students are now capable of troubleshooting computers and are able to deal with customers. The professional development that the students learned in this program can be applied to their careers. The Intro to A/V program is a great opportunity for students to get exposure to the different career paths that are technical. Whether it is computer science or networking, the students have a head start of what career paths they want to pursue.

The students in the Intro to A/V program worked on a DIY project where they were able to repurpose laptop monitors and turn them into dedicated monitors. This project was eco-friendly where the monitors of the unusable laptops can be saved. The students put in a lot of work and even though some of the projects weren’t all flesh out. The students were able to grasp on the concept and this hands-on experience taught them about PC hardware.

Will:

Where do you see this program ending up in five years?

Irene:

In five years, I would love to see our space grow even bigger. My students, ages 14-19, come from various high schools throughout Boston. I can’t take everybody, but I definitely want this program to be bigger. I also want to take this on the road and bring it to other communities. I want more high school students or even adults enrolled the Intro to Tech or Intro to A/V program. For the business side of Square Tech, I want to see this flourish and become more popular because I was with this since it was born. I know that Phu can take it to the next level and beyond.

Phu:

There are a lot of things I want to echo from Irene. There is definitely money out there to support programs like us. The City of Boston is supporting a lot of digital trends and Boston is transitioning to be more robust. In the next five years, I want to partner with corporations and help companies hire students that go through our program. We also want to work with other non-profits, so we can have satellite sites or even more training programs for the youth. I also want the Square Tech space to get bigger, maybe get a second floor. We have basically outgrown our program like over 400 percent. There is a lot of potential for Square Tech.


Impact is a section on the STEAM Boston website where we feature organizations that are providing opportunities of equity to students & professionals in the Greater Boston area. If your organization aligns with our mission, we would love to feature you. Email [email protected] for more information.

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