Phillip O. Berry Academy educates SAS users of tomorrow

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While some college students may be struggling to decide what degree to pursue, Gabrielle Roseboro, a freshman at NC State, already knows what she wants to be when she grows up: “I want to be a programmer at a large technology company.”

Roseboro chose her career path after taking her first SAS programming course at Phillip O. Berry Academy of technology, a magnet high school in Charlotte, NC.

“At the time, I didn’t realize how valuable it was for me to take this course in high school,” said Roseboro. “But now that I’m in college and have classes with people who had never been exposed to programming until college, I understand the importance. It’s definitely put me ahead of the class.”

Dr. Sharon Jones teaches her students how to use SAS to derive value from data

Her high school teacher, Dr. Sharon Jones, has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to Roseboro and many other students like her.

“Exposing students to programming is half the battle,” said Jones. “They won’t understand the impact that SAS has on everyday life until they experience it. That’s my mission in the classroom -- show them how powerful learning SAS can be.”

The course is offered in the school’s IT Academy and has grown tremendously over the last four years. The school recently developed it into a pathway that begins with introduction to computer science and goes deeper into SAS when students take Programming 1. There’s been so much demand from students that the school trained two more educators to teach the class.

“One of the biggest reasons it’s become so popular is that the students are engaged,” said Jones. “I knew that if I could take data and show them how analytics affects them every day that they would eventually gravitate to it and understand it.”

For example, Jones has taken her students’ passion for the local NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, and developed a way to integrate basketball into learning. Each year, the students get to attend a Bobcats game where they collect data, analyze it and even meet with the Bobcats’ official analyst who shows them how SAS is used in the NBA.

In May, the Bobcats franchise decided to change its name to the Hornets. Knowing your customers buying habits and preferences is important for businesses, and students at Phillip O. Berry already have first-hand experience in customer intelligence and analytics. Building on their interest in the Bobcats, the students put together a survey to evaluate name-change preference and collected nearly 1,000 responses from the student body. The students then used SAS to analyze the data, and they presented their project and findings to a representative within the Bobcats organization.

Dr. Jones has fostered in her students an appreciation for knowing how to work with data. Her creative approach has allowed the students to apply their skills to data that interests them, which makes the course more relevant to the students and keeps them highly engaged. “Dr. Jones makes the class fun, and she really cares about how we learn,” said Roseboro.  “It wasn’t just about memorizing and testing. We really learned to understand SAS and what it can do.”

Phillip O. Berry is the only school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system offering a course in SAS programming.

“We are a school of technology -- we have to be on the leading edge of what’s happening in education,” said Jones. “This course takes our students to the next level and gives them a skill that will be highly marketable after they graduate.” Given their students’ interest in continuing to develop analytical skills, Phillip O. Berry plans to add an advanced level SAS programming course beginning in the fall. The advanced course covers comparisons of manipulation techniques and resource cost benefits designed to help programmers choose the most appropriate technique for their data situation. It also teaches students how to process data using SQL, as well as how to design, write and debug macro systems that are reusable and dynamic.

In addition to helping students learn to work with data and extract value from it, Jones also shows her students how well-known people are using these skills in the real world.

“I’m constantly telling them how successful they can be if they take what they learn in my class and pursue a career in analytics,” said Jones. “I think they finally got it when I showed them a network interview about how Jack Dorsey used his skills to create Twitter and make billions.”

Jones commends SAS for working to expose students to programming and analytics at an early age. She encourages other high school educators to consider a similar course at their schools.

As for Roseboro, she is excited about what her future holds and is looking into continuing her education with SAS at the Institute for Advanced Analytics at NC State -- the world’s first advanced analytics degree program, which was developed in collaboration with SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, a Wolfpack alumnus.

For more information on how you can get started with a SAS programming course in your high school, visit http://support.sas.com/learn/ap/hs/.

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Maggie Miller

Education and Training

+ Maggie Miller is a communications specialist at SAS. You'll likely find her writing blogs, shooting videos and sharing it all on social media. She has nearly ten years of journalism experience that she brings to her writing to help you learn and grow with SAS. Follow on Twitter @maggiemiller0

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