Lawrence High School senior Patrick Wong was hired by the school district's director of technology, who remembered Wong grilling him as a student member of the school board.
Lawrence High School senior Patrick Wong can credit his success in computers to Chinese food.
Wong's family owns Royal Peking Restaurant, which is located next door to Radio Shack in The Malls Shopping Center.
"I would always go next door and mess with their computers," Wong said.
All the tinkering paid off.
Wong, who still has a year of high school left, is working for the Lawrence public schools this summer, installing cable wire and working on computers.
But he's not just any computer guru. He got the job, in part, because of another interest. Wong served on the Lawrence school board for the past year as part of the Youth in Local Government program.
"I've always wanted to know how the school board worked and how things get done," he said. "I wanted to help the school board by giving them better ideas on how to do things, to help out and do my duty as a good Lawrence citizen."
Wong and Free State High School senior John Sheu were outspoken junior board members who often questioned decisions and grilled presenters seeking funds from the district.
One of the school administrators who came under their scrutiny was the director of technology, Mike Eltschinger. Wong and Sheu questioned Eltschinger extensively before putting their stamp of approval on computer purchases.
"I knew (Eltschinger) a little bit before, but I got to know him better through the school board," Wong said.
Wong had participated in a marketing internship program with LHS teacher Helen Seeley and, through his computer-related projects, talked to Eltschinger about computer needs.
When it came time to hire summer employees Eltschinger placed Wong on the list.
"I knew he was interested in technology, and like many hobbyists, he has many interests," Eltschinger said. "He uses technology at home, and he's worked with Ken Highfill at Lawrence High School, developing his Web pages."
Eltschinger said he made the right choice in putting Wong to work.
"He has a good sense of humor," he said. "And you definitely need some of that. He has a good, strong work ethic and is always available. He's always willing to learn, and that's a key thing I look for."
When Wong took the summer job, he knew all about Powerpoints and downloading information. What he didn't know was how to install computer cables.
"I'm really new to this," he said. "I'm not much of a hands-on tool guy. At first I didn't know the names, and now I'm able to find them. I brushed up on my shop class skills."
By the end of the summer, Wong and the rest of the technology team will be doing what they really like: sitting in front of a computer screen.
"This is a great job," Wong said. "One of the goals of the district is to have a computer in every classroom. We're trying to fulfill that commitment."
Wong is the only one in his family who has been bitten by the computer bug, but he still doesn't know if he will make it his career.
"I'm thinking about majoring in computer engineering or getting a business management degree," he said. "I have a lot of experience there."
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.