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City Tech’s Nona Smith Honored by NAACP Brooklyn and Borough President

Access for Women’s Smith honored by Borough President Markowitz. Photo credit: Alberto Vargas

“It’s very rewarding to see students getting involved in activities that excite them about math and technology,” says Nona Smith, director of Access For Women (AFW) at New York City College of Technology (City Tech)/CUNY.

With these words, Smith expressed her delight in seeing the start-up of the new one-year Electrical Technician Training (E-Tech) Program recently established at City Tech. Funding was provided by an infusion of $343,000 in federal stimulus funds awarded to AFW through the New York City Department of Small Business Services.

For her efforts, Smith was honored last Friday (December 11) at Brooklyn Borough Hall by the Brooklyn Education Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

E-Tech is a partnership with New York City Parks Department’s Parks Opportunity Program (POP). The Parks Department and City Tech have worked together previously – POP operates a transitional job training program for Human Resource Administration (HRA) clients – individuals on temporary assistance who need to upgrade or acquire new skills so that they can enter the job market. Since 2003, AFW has run an award-winning technical training program in building maintenance for these HRA clients.

“On POP’s end, the person who oversaw the start of the partnership in 2003 was Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Garafola,” says Smith. “We have worked with POP Chief Annika Holder and her staff, conducting technical training for a new group of trainees each year.  In 2007, the Parks Department awarded AFW a plaque for ‘Excellence in Training.’

“Our history with the POP program placed AFW in a position to be recommended by Parks for the federal stimulus grant that funds our E-Tech Project,” adds Smith.

First class of E-Tech students. Photo credit: Alberto Vargas

To prepare its clients for the E-Tech project, POP conducted a 160-hour Math Academy. Thirty-five of the clients were then admitted to the 440-hour, three-day-a-week program. Faculty and staff from City Tech’s School of Technology & Design worked with AFW on curriculum development and course design, including classroom instruction, technical labs, hands-on projects and field experience.

E-Tech consists of four courses that will prepare enrollees to meet entry-level technical requirements for the position of electrical maintenance and service technician – “Ensuring Success of Electrical Technician Trainees,” “Technical Skills Lecture and Lab,” “Mathematics for Electrical Technicians” and “Computer Systems Fundamentals.” 

In addition to attending courses at City Tech, the trainees will benefit from trips to observe and speak with individuals at work in jobs for which trainees are being prepared. When participants complete the program, job placement will be provided by POP. 

City Tech’s Access For Women is designed to increase the representation of women of all ages in technical education – especially in the engineering technologies and related fields. “The earlier you introduce girls and women to nontraditional technical education and careers, the more likely they will be to choose a career path in one of the fields,” observes Smith, a graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College who came to City Tech in 1999 to become AFW’s director.

Smith attributes the success of AFW to the fact that it functions in partnership with different academic departments in the College, especially those in the School of Technology & Design, and thus is able to offer courses taught by professionals in technological fields. Moreover, she notes, City Tech’s Division of Continuing Education provides a support network for AFW students, as do the College’s student support services and organizations in the community. “All of these entities give trainees additional options and support, thereby enhancing and strengthening the overall program,” she explains.


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