When Katie Erkman joined the Lucile Erwin Middle School Robotics Team many years ago, it created a career path for the now-senior at Loveland High School that would result in years of experiences Katie never imagined as a child dreaming of one day becoming a professional singer.
“STEM came out of left field,” explains Katie (who uses they/them pronouns). “I am a nerd and love math. You don’t have to love math to be in engineering, but that’s what keeps me going.”
Katie’s years participating in LEGO robotics and later on the robotics team at Loveland High School prompted them to look for more opportunities to learn about technology, becoming one of the first students in the Information Technology Pathway at Thompson Career Campus.
“I began when it was just starting out, and I was one of three women in the program,” Katie recalls. “It really opened my eyes into more of a career side of tech rather than just the creative side. I started thinking, ‘How can I help the most people?’”
As it turned out, there were many ways for Katie to use their skills to help others, starting with serving as a summer intern for Innovative Technology Services for Thompson School District. As interns, selected students are paid to work for Innovative Technology Services over the summer and are also given high school credits. After working as an intern, Katie was given the opportunity to apply to be one of a handful of apprentices who work as I.T. technicians in the district throughout the school year.
“My goal is to learn as much as I possibly can, because you never know what you don’t know until you learn.”
“It’s so eye-opening,” Katie says. “I find it really interesting. My goal is to learn as much as I possibly can, because you never know what you don’t know until you learn.”
Katie said the most interesting part of being an apprentice for the I.T.S. team has been learning how to apply the classroom lessons to doing their job in the field.
“At T.C.C., we discuss everything in theory. We learn what a router is and how it works. There’s a lot of textbook work and visualizing,” Katie explains. “It’s different when I can help my teacher with their laptop. One day I’m a student; the next day, I’m a staff member. When you’re helping the principal at the school you go to, it gives you a sense of pride.”
As a senior with just one class in the building at Loveland High School, Katie spends most of their time doing college classes through Front Range Community College and working as an apprentice. This year is Katie’s second year in the three-year apprentice program, and the ambitious senior has goals of attending college to study engineering and continue with a career in technology.
“My dream school is the School of Mines,” Katie says. “I want to go there so bad. They have a really cool A.I. program I want to be a part of that would be really fun to learn about and explore.”
Katie says one of the best parts of the opportunities they have had to learn technology through Thompson School District has been learning to overcome their anxiety and be more comfortable talking to new people.
“There’s this habit to get so involved in your own little world, especially as a teenager,” Katie explains. “I do have a lot of anxiety internally, but I feel like if you just put something out there, even just a little bit, even if it’s wrong, it’s better than retreating. You get so many more opportunities by showing who you are. The world is so much better when you’re more rounded as an individual.”
After graduating next spring, Katie will enter the third year of the apprenticeship, working full-time as an I.T. technician—something this self-described tech addict can’t wait to undertake.
“It’s funny; my mom is like ‘you need hobbies,’ because tech has taken over a lot of what I do,” Katie says. “But I’m like any other teenager. I like to play video games and hang out with friends. I also really like reading—especially calculus textbooks.”