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In-school tech teams helping build confidence
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PLEASANT HILL (AP) — A California school program is giving schoolkids confidence with computers — one busted laptop or bugged program at a time.

The San Jose Mercury News says the program is called MOUSE Squad. It’s operated in 125 California schools since 2003.

At Valley View Middle School in Northern California’s Pleasant Hill, 22 seventh- and eighth-graders are serving as the school’s computer techs.

They respond to help requests logged with the MOUSE squad’s website, fix the computer problems for teachers and others, then write up service reports describing what they did.

“It feels really good,” said eighth-grader Francis Pham, who is the squad captain. “It’s like you’re saving the day.”

The program is meant to help girls and minorities in particular get used to thinking of themselves as tech whizzes.

State MOUSE Squad director Jan Half says the benefits are many. “This is a program that doesn’t just teach them the tech skills,” she said, “but also workplace skills and communication and confidence and leadership — a lot of other qualities that employers tell us are really great skills, too.”

At Valley View, MOUSE Squad members meet once a week at lunch with teacher Shauna Hawes, who secured grants to help pay for the school’s membership in the statewide group.

The program has become so popular at Valley View that 50 children applied for the squad’s 22 positions.

“We had senior citizens who are all well-educated members of the ... community coming here to learn about Google Docs from middle-schoolers,” Hawes said. “And the teachers comment on how mature the kids are.”