Michael Rakers grew up in St. Louis and attended school at Purdue Calumet where he studied information technology. While in graduate school at Purdue Calumet, also studying technology, Rakers was awarded a graduate assistantship and became an instructor at the school.
Shortly thereafter, he says that he and a friend, Jason Bockenek, came up with the vision to begin their own company. They started Calumet Tech Services, where Rakers serves as acting CEO and Bockenek is CIO.
Rakers recalls, “I was working at Lincoln Elementary School District as a tech assistant and they won a grant and needed someone to install 250 machines and servers, so we decided to start our own company to help the school district fulfill their grant. We completed that project and from there word of mouth spread about our work and we moved on to other schools, churches, and not-for-profits.”
Calumet Tech Services’ slogan is “IT solutions at minimum cost,” and Rakers says this is because they want to help bring technology to those in need, to make a big impact on the lives of students throughout their endeavors. They recently completed work for Hoover-Schrum Memorial School District 157 located in Calumet City, Illinois.
Rakers says, “We are currently employed in other school districts in the area and are trying to get them a grant for similar technology programs. These programs are generally for Title I schools, so approximately 80% of kids are low income or needing assistance. A technology plan is written so teachers can use a technology apparatus to teach the kids. If there is a computer in the room, then at least the students will have the chance to touch that technology at least once a day, but we work with the one-to-one laptop initiative, which provides laptops for every middle school student.
“It’s a way to provide technology for low-income areas so teachers can integrate the technology in their curriculum, in the classroom.
“It’s a blessing so students can carry this technology education on to high school and college and they’re better off than if they have never had any exposure to technology at all. It’s critical because in the next five to ten years kids will be using these computers for everything they do. Some kids are too lazy to go to the library or use an encyclopedia and they can use a computer for a search, so it’s a way to get a wealth of information from a different avenue, so it reaches them in that way.”
Although Calumet Tech Services has certainly established a niche in the school technology market, they also provide information technology consulting services, system repair, security networking solutions, software solutions, training, and web design services. They work with consumers and businesses and combined, Rakers and Bockenek have over twenty years of experience.
Rakers says that his company works both with government, to secure grants and funding for technology programs, as well as approaching the business side for their needs as well. The company has recently joined the chambers of commerce in the region to begin to network and establish meaningful relationships. Rakers also volunteers his free time at Our Family Center of Hammond and helps out with technology by equipping an internet network for a computer lab and offices with 16 computers. “I teach in an after-school program for sixth to eighth graders and provide math assistance. I see the pattern of kids starting out, ready to approach high school and then also the kids who are post-high school and I have seen their growth and development related to their exposure to technology. I think technology is worth it for kids to touch it, no matter how much exposure they get, but the more the better. It readies them for the future.”
Five to ten years from now, Rakers says he would like to see more technology applied to a learning platform and would like to help facilitate that. “I would love to develop an endowment for scholarships or research because getting funding for these technology programs can be difficult. In fact, we recently had a problem with the Blagojevich administration and had grants that fell through due to budget shortfalls. It’s one of those things where I wish I could provide the money myself and I just can’t. But at least I provide the labor,” says Rakers.