The future is looking brighter for Northwest students who have dropped out of high school but still want their diplomas.
Since August, these students have had a chance to make up their missing credits at an alternative school on the Northwest campus of Pima Community College, 7600 N. Shannon Road.
Now, these students also will be guaranteed internships that teach them about computers - with paychecks.
Aztec Middle College, founded in 1997 and opened on the Northwest campus in August, recently received a $719,000 federal five-year grant to start a program with that perk.
The Career and Vocational Technological Education program uses its connections with Tucson businesses to teach Aztec students about the work world. Right now, the students only take the core high school classes they are lacking - such as math or English classes - along with study skills classes.
The grant requires that its recipients team up with area businesses to offer guaranteed internships. Aztec has joined with Information Technology Association of Southern Arizona, which includes more than 400 member companies.
The companies are eager for young interns, who tend to be familiar with computers, said Vaughn Croft, the grant administrator.
"They said we'd come around at the right time," Croft said. "They're needing people and are hungry to get the up-and-coming educated person."
Aztec's new program will prepare students for entry-level jobs in a highly computerized modern business world.
"Traditionally, business education has been based on the typewriter and looks like secretarial work for an administrator," Croft said. "But business technology equipment is becoming an important part of it. Someone has to keep this stuff running."
While learning about computers - how to keep computer networks and Web pages up and running, for example - students will also build their resumes and post them on-line.
Internships will come their second year, after they fulfill necessary course requirements. Along with paychecks, the students will receive both high school and college credit for the internships.
The grant will pay for a teacher, for new computers at each Aztec site, and for SmartBoards - interactive devices that look like dry-erase boards but display projections of computer screens and are sensitive to touch.
"It's possible Aztec may be one of the more modern classrooms on campus," Croft said.
Fall registration is open now.
Prospective students must be between 17 and 21 and have completed a minimum of 10 high school credits, and must be referred by their area high school counselor.
For more information, call 206-2258.