Partnership between SWBOCES divisions benefits students and staff

Student, instructor exemplify success of CISCO Networking program 

 instructor and student of CISCO class Jose Medina of White Plains was studying to become an electrician at Southern Westchester BOCES when he changed plans and enrolled in computer networking.

Thanks to a partnership between the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center and the Center for Adult & Community Services, Mr. Medina is now on track to become a CISCO Certified Network Associate, along with several LHRIC employees.

“I think it was on the second day of Electrical level 2, right before I got on the bus, I was thinking of whether I was really committed to this. That’s when I decided I was going to switch,” he said.

He completed the first-level CISCO course, taught by LHRIC Network Specialist Chris Ballayan, in late June with the next section set to begin in September. Surging enrollment of new students, including several LHRIC staff, enabled the class to run and is expected to support the next two levels of the program.

Employees in networking roles are a natural fit for the program, which needs at least six enrolled students to run. The spring class was at capacity, benefiting students like Mr. Medina, who was waiting for it to run. 

LHRIC, a division of Southern Westchester BOCES, provides technology infrastructure and instructional support to school districts in three counties. Officials there and at SWBOCES’ Adult Education division, recognized the career-enhancing value of CISCO training to prospective students. When those students come from its own ranks, the LHRIC and the school districts it supports benefit as well.

Adult Education Program Coordinator Betsy Evans said she advised him to switch to CISCO if he wasn’t happy with his previous track. “When we enrolled him, Instructor Chris Ballayan said right away, he’ll do great,” Ms. Evans said.

Mr. Medina admits he was nervous due to his lack of a networking background. Mr. Ballayan made the difference for him, he said. His approach emphasizes problem-solving and interactive discussion. The course was challenging, but Mr. Medina said his classmates supported one another. Mr. Ballayan encouraged them to collaborate, particularly those LHRIC employees who work hands-on in the field.

jose medina with scholarship certificate

In the last year, the Southern Westchester BOCES Education Foundation was revived and last June awarded several scholarships. With the encouragement of Ms. Evans and a reference letter from Mr. Ballayan, and from Mr. Medina's former electrical instructor, Mr. Medina applied and received a scholarship that covered nearly a third of his tuition.

“Jose took that initiative and turned the application around in one day,” Ms. Evans said.

Looking to his future, Mr. Medina plans to pursue the IT field and continue his studies in the next–level CISCO Certified Network Professional program. The prospect of college debt informed his decision to pursue a program that would let him enter the workforce sooner. This way he could pay for college himself. 

“Every class we offer at the Center for Adult & Community Services is about hope,” Ms. Evans said, “hope for a better job, hope for a higher paying job, hope to learn a trade. For the LHRIC people, the hope is for career and professional advancement.”   

A graduate of the CCNA program himself, Mr. Ballayan said he takes a more practical approach, incorporating troubleshooting skills into the CISCO curriculum and investing in resources to supplement the curriculum. Mr. Ballayan, who renewed his CCNP certification himself this spring, said he is driven to give back because this country has given him so much. He came here from Liberia at 27 with a degree in economics and took any paying job, including as a nurse’s aide. That allowed him to study computing in the evenings.

Mr. Ballayan said he is proud of Mr. Medina’s success. He sees in him a drive to succeed that is rare for someone his age.

This past spring, Mr. Medina would arrive early for class so he and Mr. Ballyan could talk about the class and his ambitions. “I told him, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible,” Mr. Ballyan said. “If I can do it, you can do it.”