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PTECH students revamp website for community agency

April 30, 2021 | Filed in Archive

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Thanks to two HFM PTECH students, the Fulmont Community Action Agency has launched an upgraded website that they hope will not only look more modern, but also better help their clients navigate their services.

Denis Wilson, the nonprofit’s executive director and CEO, Wilson said the process of getting a new website began during the 2019-20 school year, when he reached out to PTECH about having students work on the project.

“We decided that our website was out of date, and we were thinking about who we could get to do it,” Wilson said.

Wilson serves as the chairman of the Board of Directors for the Fulton Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Commerce, a close partner of the HFM PTECH program. He recalled that PTECH students had redesigned the Amsterdam Rotary Club’s website a few years ago. 

“The value for us was to get a new website, but the value for the students is to get the experience,” Wilson said. “I think it’s a two-way street; we get something that we need, and the students get something that they need, too.”

Wilson presented the idea to former PTECH teacher Dylan Thomarie in the fall of 2019. “We took the opportunity and went with it,” Thomarie said, adding that he ended up making the project a central part of his Gaming and Coding I coursework that year. 

“The students had to learn everything from scratch,” Thomarie said.

Once the freshmen students had coding basics down, they could focus more on designing the website. In the winter of 2020 the students, working in small groups, were asked to pitch their website concepts to representatives from the Fulmont Community Action Agency.  

Thomarie described the presentations as a kind of “trial by fire” for some of the students, who quickly learned lessons in professionalism and having to think on their feet when clients ask a barrage of questions and critique their work.

“It also teaches students that they have to get over themselves because it matters more whether the client likes it,” Thomarie said. “In the end, it’s their choice because they’re paying the bill.”

Wilson agreed that the experience students get is not only technical, but actually working with a business teaches professional skills.

After meeting with students a couple more times over the winter, Wilson and his colleagues narrowed the options and chose the site students Alex Cordone and Luke Page, now sophomores, designed and built.

“I think it was good to make a competition out of it,” Thomarie said. “Students took it more seriously that way.”

About designing the website, Page said: “When we first started, I think we were just trying to make the site a little better, but then we realized we could make it our own way and make it more modern than it was before.”

Despite the changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the school year, Cordone and Page continued their work for the FCAA through the spring and presented their final work during the summer of 2020.

Although it’s taken a number of months for all the final transitioning to the new site to be completed, it is now live.

“They did a fabulous job,” Wilson said. “It worked out perfectly.”

In addition to learning how to create a good website, Cordone said he gained a lot of other skills, too. “We learned a lot about deadlines and how to dress professionally and also what is sensible to put out there into the world,” he said. “I definitely advanced a lot in that way.”

Page agreed that he also grew professionally from the experience. “With all the meetings that we’ve been having, it helps me to get used to speaking in front of people and to dress properly and professionally,” he said.

Cordone said he thinks the work he did on this project connects well with his plans to pursue a career in cyber security and computer networking. “That field has a lot of professional situations, and this is definitely going to help me in that,” he said.

Perhaps the most important lesson the students learned was about the importance of good communication, Thomarie pointed out, which resulted in a quality end-product. “To have the real-world experience is great, and it’s something for them to have in their portfolio and on their resumes,” he said.

The FCAA’s new website can be viewed here.