Coming from an Ex-Dell Support
While its been around 18 months since I left Dell Tech Support (just as they were beginning to ship systems with Linux), we weren't "Script monkeys". Well, not all of us anyhow. I followed the script about as far as saying hello and goodbye. Beyond that, I went off the "support script" whenever I could. Part of the reason I spent most of my time there as a higher tier rep (apparently they promote you to higher tiers for commonly thinking outside the box.. was front line for all of a week).
Even at my site though, I'll admit, it was a bit of a hit or miss. One person, while A+ certified, may strictly follow the script and think little else beyond what the internal knowledge base tells you to do. The next on the other head goes so far off the script, or even finds one that is partially relative and then goes off on his/her own to fix it that the problem is resolved either quicker, or in a better fashion (such as fixing a wireless problem in 2 min that took most of the floot an hour >_<).
As for the choice of Ubuntu vs Linux, its a learning process. Yes, learning. But hey, isn't that what you go to college for? To learn? Doesn't the school have some sort of wireless, and if so, that surprisingly enough should be accessible under (wait for it!) Linux due to this funny thing called (OMG!) standards? As to the Verizon, can't say much to it myself, however, utlizing the previously noted 5th grader skills to do a little hunting online should reveal what I'm missing to get even connected to that in fairly clicky-clicky terms (Prolly some typing in there, guess that means I'm learning typing skills too?).
And Microsoft Office.. Well, OpenOffice solves that problem, but if you really absolutely must have MS Office, there are ways to install it through mostly clicky options as I recall.
Linux has changed a lot in the last ten years. While I admit to still spending most of my time working through a shell, that's just how I learned it. Linux has become much easier. Yes, it was a lot of work to sometimes get things working, and while you can still do it the old fashioned way, there are GUI options that can do the same tasks (Scary, no?)
But what do I know, I still consider myself a bit of a Novice to Linux, even after working with it in desktops and server environments for 12 years.