Recent East Islip High School graduate Austin Ward has become the second East Islip student to achieve the prestigious Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician certification, a major benchmark in the field of information technology.
Ward, a member of East Islip’s Class of 2014 and the school’s Green Career Academy, was enrolled in East Islip’s two-year Cisco Network Academy program under the tutelage of Paul McHugh, who was recently designated by Cisco as an Advanced Level instructor. The course uses an authentic Cisco lab that permits students to learn via real-world network design and troubleshooting. Fellow 2014 alumnus and Cisco Network Academy attendee Dan Murphy obtained Cisco certification at the end of the last school year.
“It’s absolutely amazing that this year we had two students who just completed high school and have achieved this special certification,” said Israel Malinowitzer, the director of guidance and the career academies, and Ward’s mentor. “The CCENT exam is a very difficult test that requires many hours, weeks and months of studying and hoping to pass.”
“I initially joined the Cisco class because I have always had an interest in computers, and I knew that it had something to do with technology,” said Ward. “I didn’t understand the concept of networking, but after two years of being in the course and passing my CCENT certification exam, the idea of not understanding networking is foreign to me. I was introduced to something that I couldn’t even comprehend at the time, and now it has turned into one of my biggest assets.”
Despite McHugh’s inspiration and countless hours of preparation, Ward did not pass on his first attempt. “Even with studying as hard as I could and really believing that I could pass, the first time I took it, I failed,” he said. “I have no shame in saying that this was a big hit for me, and it really discouraged me for a while. Of course, after all this time I couldn’t give up that easily, but it definitely wasn’t easy bouncing back from that. How could this happen? I had taken all of the necessary steps, I would eat, sleep and breathe Cisco, and I still failed. But I learned from my mistakes and paid attention to my faults. I picked myself back up and embraced my failure. When I took the test again a few weeks later, I passed.”
Ward believes that difficult exams such as the CCENT can not only further a student’s education, but serve as milestones to enhance other areas in life. “Before I started studying for the CCENT, I had atrocious studying habits, and that just won’t cut it at college,” said Ward. “I figured, this was a chance for me to really buckle down for once and give something my all. As I started my journey on my path to receive my certification, I realized how easily I was able to manage my time. The time that I put into studying for this test really prepared me for what’s to come in my future, and not just with college.”
Ward was recently asked to participate in a meeting with State Sen. Phil Boyle in which students were asked to discuss their thoughts on New York’s Common Core State Standards, and spoke on behalf of East Islip’s Career Academies at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. He plans to work as an intern at Motorola Solutions next summer following his freshman year at college.
“We will hear many wonderful things about Austin over the next few years, because he is very bright and does not give up,” said Malinowitzer.