During the week leading up to the beginning of a school year there are a lot of jobs to be done to classrooms to make them student ready. In the olden days that might have been sharpening the pencils and filling the ink wells.
Today it's more a matter of connecting computers and setting up Elmo systems (the higher tech counterpart to the overhead that uses a camera, wired to a computer wired to a projector). These kinds of systems require a knowledge level of technology that not all teachers may have.
At Challenger K-8 School for Science & Mathematics this issue is resolved through the efforts of computer whiz Kyle Eppley. He comes by every year to help with much of the necessary wiring. Kyle, 16, has just started his junior year at Nature Coast Technical High School.
"I've been doing this for six years," he said, that is, since he was in the fifth grade. "Every year, I help get this school off the ground."
He has a special place in his heart for Challenger, because he attended the school in grades fifth through eighth, a new student in a brand new school. When Challenger opened, he said, he helped put the computers in the wall.
He has another connection. The school's library media specialist is Debbye Warrell, whom Kyle has known since he was in second-grade at Brooksville Elementary School. As soon as she started teaching video production, he was right there.
Warrell had an afterschool reading class and promoted books through the school's morning show. They called the segment the "P and W Book Chat" and Kyle did all the taping for it. Warrell recalled that he was probably in third or fourth grade.
"He's been exceptional since an early age," she said.
"For Ms. Warrell's video program (sixth grade)," Kyle said, "for the first few weeks we'd go around and help set up and support the tech guy."
Now Kyle does network diagnostics along with the hookups. He walked into a server room containing boards covered with congestions of gray, blue and red wires.
"Second grade was when I started color coding for the cords," he said. "I can look at the cords and tell you what they all do." Every section of the school has a server room, he explained, which is kind of like a tech headquarters.
Now at Nature Coast, Kyle is involved with the video program.
"That's what I want to do," he said. "I would love to make films." He then listed some of the jobs involved with that: running cameras, editing, writing scripts. "You have to know a lot to work in video," he said.
Out of the classroom he assists HITV (Hernando Instructional Television), helping to film Friday night football games.
Since Challenger K-8 opened its doors Kyle has been there assisting with technology.
"I helped start it and I feel every year I should come in a help get it started," he said. He will be graduating in a couple of years, though and said he doesn't know what the school will do after he leaves for college.
Kyle is taking dual enrollment classes now and hopes to have a Pasco-Hernando Community College associate's degree by the time he graduates from high school. His current plan is to move to California to attend the University of Southern California or the University of California, Los Angeles.
Kyle is the son of Kimberly and Kent Eppley of Brooksville.