Alley, a freshman at Sparks High School, is finishing up his first year in the Microsoft IT Signature Academy while making huge strides in the first-year program. The 14-year-old was already a “gamer” before he entered the academy, and he said he discovered it was much more than he expected.
“At first, for me, it was the gaming aspect of (the academy),” Alley said. “As soon as I got into the program I realized it was much more than that. What I have gotten from it is my expertise because I like database, number crunching and things like that. So I found another branch that I can go off of. For others, it can be game designing or security, but I have found my place.”
The database programming Alley finds interesting can cover a broad range of topics, according to Microsoft IT program facilitator Tami Curley.
“Most people think about it as keeping track of things,” Curley said. “But it also uses a lot of gaming such as people who sign up to play online. There are different ways to use database programming and that is what Darren has looked at, all those different ways you can use database.”
Along with handling database programming, Alley also works with Microsoft certification assessments, handling popular programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Alley has earned eight certifications in all, two of them at an expert level for more dense programs, and he received his Microsoft Technical Associates certification from the company itself.
“For me, it is overwhelming because it brings that feeling of passing it,” Alley said. “There are some that are more difficult than others because it is simulated and you don't actually have the real program in front of you, so it is overwhelming and fun to pass them.
“With the books we have through Microsoft I usually take them home with me every now and again like when I have something I am stuck on and need to work on it at home. If I am stuck on something that I cannot get past, I usually like to write down the chapter so I can memorize and find out what I am doing wrong and what I can improve on.”
Curley said Alley has become a mentor in the classroom, helping other students with their certifications and coaching them on completing the proper steps when handling assignments. She said his commitment to programming and understanding that his future career can be in technological studies has led him to the achievements at a young age.
“He came in understanding that this is about careers,” Curley said. “For others, they did not realize they could make a career out of the things they get from this academy. He has dedication and he is motivated. He gets it.
“For Darren, he has made a commitment to it and that is a big thing for him. They all have the ability to take the work home and he works on it through Christmas break and is always working at home. He sees that success and he wants to see more.”
Alley is currently looking for an internship in the Mayor’s office, which will have him troubleshooting common computer problems and give him the opportunity to get some field experience. He said though college is still a few years off, he plans to find a school with strong engineering and computer science departments so he can work for a Bachelor and Master’s degree before entering the field of business intelligence.
“It is something that has piqued my interest and it is a little bit different and more unique than database,” Alley said of the career. “It is really working with the people and running programs for the clientele. You get to see their numbers and see what they are doing with it.”
Until the time for college comes, Alley said he is looking forward to advancing in the Microsoft IT Academy as well as working in the Robotics Club, marching band and ski team at Sparks High School. Curley said options will be endless for Alley because of the extensive training he will receive in the academy.
“The nice thing about Microsoft is that it is used all around the world,” Curley said. “So wherever these kids go, people are using Microsoft and it will open up those doors for them. Whether it is working at Microsoft or at a hospital, for example, they will be using Microsoft technology so your skills will be transferrable there.”