Opokua Oduro, NetHope Academy Internship Program, Program Manager
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – (March 26, 2012) As the 29 members of the NetHope Academy 2012 Haiti graduating class convened in the Hotel Kinam lobby on Friday afternoon they shared smiles, laughter and camaraderie and I felt a huge sense of pride. On this day, these individuals were to be celebrated for a job well done, and I had the honor of having been with them from the start.
NetHope Academy connects young Haitian computer science graduates with opportunities to gain work experience as interns at local corporations and NGOs such as Voila and World Vision. This program is NetHope’s response to the reality that many young people who are lucky enough to receive an education, never get an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in the real-world…and without that critical first job experience, they are often deemed “unemployable” when job opportunities do arise. Through the NetHope Academy, each graduate gains real-world experience through six month internships. Over the course of the internship, they also pursue a rigorous combination of instructor-led and online coursework to further their IT knowledge, develop soft skills and achieve certifications from Microsoft. Today they joined an ever growing group of talented IT professionals representing the best of the young IT talent in Haiti – NetHope Academy alumni have proven themselves in the marketplace.
The Graduates, enrobed in dark blue and yellow cap and gowns, were greeted eagerly by their proud families, friends, mentors and supervisors as they processed to the stage to await their honors. Some Graduates wore red hoods, designating their achievement of the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist exam. A photo slide show streamed against the front wall depicting the interns at work, studying and at times just having fun. A song, created by a small team of NetHope interns about the NetHope Academy program looped in the background. For a moment I had a chance to reflect on how far we had come together in just a few months. Just six months earlier, I met each of these young people for the first time at their interview, each eager to be invited to join the program – and now, here they stood before us , another milestone completed, skills developed, relationships forged, and their lights shining brighter than ever, poised to take on the next opportunity with enthusiasm.
NetHope’s investment in Haitian youth began in 2010, fueled by the principle that given an opportunity to gain practical work experience and soft skills instruction, these computer-science educated young people become proven, valuable resources to future employers. Overall, the program has been successful – NetHope interns are highly praised by the host organizations and IT Mentors receiving them, and often, job offers await the young people before they can even begin an external job search. Over 80% of NetHope Academy interns get full time employment within 90 days of completing the program.
Presiding as Godfather over the ceremony was Mr. Kesner Pharel , well known Haitian entrepreneur, economist, media personality, and education advocate. Mr Pharel urged the Graduates to “be innovative”, follow the legacy and accomplishments of Apple, Inc. late Founder and CEO Steve Jobs as they pursue their passion for technology. Voila Foundation’s Tanya Baskin urged the Graduates to continue their journeys in a manner that best impacts their community and to develop their professional livelihoods with curiosity and a passion for discovery. Marlène Sam, NetHope Academy Program Director in Haiti, reminded the interns of their responsibility to continue to strive for outstanding success based on all they had personally invested and all that others have invested in them.
The true highlight of the program was when the Graduates took the podium. Paul Marie Tabitha Georges and Evenel St. Vil, accompanied by Reginald Louis who translated, were selected by their classmates to represent their feelings of appreciation for the benefits the program had brought to their lives and their excitement about the future. The audience erupted with applause as Tabitha closed her sentiments stating, “fellow graduates, it is wise to keep in mind that this success is not final, so we must continue to move forward and work harder because our lovely country is waiting for us. Our Haiti needs our help…”
Later, the audience was treated to the artistic talents of a few Academy Graduates . Anne Doris Vital sang beautifully and the violin/guitar duet performance by Paul Marie Tabitha Georges was stunningly beautiful. Finally, the Graduates presented an award to Paul Marie Junior of JP/HRO (an Academy Graduate himself in 2011) for his outstanding leadership as an IT Mentor and to Keith Chibafa of World Vision for World Vision’s role in supporting the program through hosting the most interns over a two year period.
As I took the podium, I felt overwhelmed with joy. “Just a few short months” I thought to myself as I reflected again on the challenges overcome and achievements accomplished…I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. I thanked the host organizations and sponsors such as Accenture, Voila, Microsoft and Cisco for their investments in the NetHope Academy. I also thanked them for believing in these young people enough to invest in a program that helps young people develop a sustainable, fruitful livelihood. “We all stand behind you as you take your next steps forward” , I assured the interns. And then, in their native language of Kreyol, I urged the interns, ““Ou dwe kwe nan tet ou.” …You must believe in yourself.”
And they should. We certainly do.
This year several outstanding interns, rich in energy, talent and dreams are available for hire in Haiti. These young professionals are the “best of the best” young Haitian IT professionals and would be a value to any organization looking to employee IT infrastructure, management, and/or entrepreneurship talent. For more information or to review resumes of available NetHope Academy Graduates, please contact Marlène Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org
NetHope Academy is sponsored by Voila Foundation and Accenture, with in-kind donations made by Microsoft, Cisco, Transversal HT and Vervago. The NetHope Academy Haiti 2012 host organizations include: Voila, Digicel, Save the Children, World Vision, Fonkoze, ESIH, J/P-HRO, Le Nouvelliste, Mercy Corp, Multilnk and SOS Children’s Villages.