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York College graduate helps Maryland school district transition to online learning

Michael with mountain landscape background

Michael Richardson ’20 has always kept a close connection with his high school. As a graduate of Westminster High School in Carroll County, Maryland, Richardson applied for an internship with the school’s tech department during his senior year of high school. He has worked with the school’s Help Desk since the summer following his graduation.

The job provided some great experience for Richardson when he started studying Cybersecurity Management at York College of Pennsylvania. As he neared graduation, Richardson’s relationship with the Carroll County School District grew even stronger, and he received a promotion to a full-time position as an Information Technology Analyst.

Richardson took the position in April 2020, partway through his final semester at York College. It was a time when the school desperately needed the help: COVID-19 was forcing the school to quickly adapt to an online learning format.

Getting to work

Richardson quickly got to work assessing the inventory at five different school sites. Laptops were configured with network access, and anywhere from 50 to 130 students requested laptops from each of the sites to which Richardson provided services. In addition to making sure teachers and students had the tools they needed, Richardson helped expand the Wi-Fi access and created maps to show where parents could park around each of the schools if they needed to log onto the internet.

“The biggest struggle early on was communication,” Richardson says. “There were a lot of questions about how things were going to operate, and we had to adapt quickly to make sure students could learn from home.” Despite the challenges, Carroll County schools were some of the first in Maryland to get students back in the “classroom” after stay-at-home orders.

Finishing his degree

Richardson also faced the challenge of finishing his final semester of college. By the time he completed work around 5 p.m. each day, he was mentally drained. The professors at York College worked with Richardson to give him the extra time he needed to complete projects and were very understanding of his situation. “I didn’t anticipate my final semester being so busy, but I had the support I needed to get through it,” he says.

Learning to multitask and manage a schedule played a big part in Richardson’s success. While he did a lot of on-the-job training for helping the school adapt in a pandemic, he also looks forward to applying his cybersecurity skills in a future position. “York College helped me learn that my skills may need to adapt to the immediate need,” Richardson says. “I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what COVID would demand. It’s great to see that despite the added stresses and uncertainty, everyone came together to succeed.”