A New Town High School student became the school’s first to earn a prestigious IT certification just before his graduation.
Stephen McGowan earned the CompTIA A+ certification in the Cisco IT Networking Completer, a certification that means he is qualified to be employed in the IT field.
New Town High School’s Completer programs are designed to put students in real-world situations to facilitate hands-on experiences that one would encounter in a technical field. According to the Owings Mills school’s website, many of the program’s seven pathways have potential to lead to industry certification or further opportunities.
McGowan earned the recognition of his technical know-how shortly after his 18th birthday; two days of testing measured his skill with computer servicing and network troubleshooting.
He intends to continue his studies at CCBC for basic college credits, followed by a technical degree from a four-year college.
McGowan attributes his initial interest in technology to his older brother, who works in the IT field and wasn’t certified until he was in his mid-30s.
“I didn’t find the exam too difficult,” said McGowan. “I think that was really because of my own personal interest — the test covered a bit more than what we went over during the school year. The knowledge that we got during the school year will help you pass, but it is impossible without more than that. I think my general expertise with computers helped me a lot.”
Howard Jackson, the Cisco IT instructor at New Town, has been teaching McGowan for the past three years. Jackson, who came to the school in 2004, explained that his vision was of students graduating “to get that A+ certification in one hand and their diploma in the other.” McGowan is the first student to do so.
“He is an inspiration to other students, and it credits the program,” said Jackson. “What made Stephen stand out was his drive and desire to learn the material and his perseverance to work through difficult material and make good choices. He saw the vision that I had laid out for my students, and he caught it.”
McGowan’s parents believe that a number of factors helped their son gain an advantage: an elementary school principal who put McGowan in an honors class with the brightest students and years of piano lessons.
“New Town High School is a very good school,” said McGowan mother, Harlene. “The support that the students get there is much better than we were accustomed to, [Stephen] came out with more than I ever expected.”
In recognition of McGowan’s accomplishment and to further honor his legacy, this year’s award will be presented to future recipients as the Stephen McGowan Award for CompTIA A+ Certification Exams.
“Even for his graduating class who will be pursuing their own certifications after high school as well, I want them to think, ‘If Stephen can do it, I can do it,’” said Jackson. “It is an initiative for the CTE program to give students the ability to learn a skill and prepare for a career, and Stephen epitomizes that. It helps students to see the vision in the flesh.”