February 20, 2013

Teaching computer skills – a moving experience for one Community Ambassador

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Imani Carr, Community Ambassador at Salt and Light in north Champaign

Imani Carr, Community Ambassador at Salt and Light in north Champaign

By Imani Carr/For CU-CitizenAccess.org

CU-CitizenAccess worked with faculty from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to secure a grant from the state that offers skills training to help participants secure jobs. The money was used to place community ambassadors in public computer labs to offer computer literacy training and workshops to underserved populations from the Urbana Free Library, Salt and Light Food Pantry and Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park as well as a public computer lab in East St. Louis. 

We’ve asked our local computer ambassadors to blog about their experiences.

Hi everyone!

I know it’s late, but Happy New Year!

Okay, who made New Year’s resolutions?  Aside from the traditional ones like lose weight (me), quit smoking, stop drinking so much, etc., did anyone resolve to volunteer more, gain or expand your knowledge in digital media/computer literacy?  Too far-fetched?  Well, I would love to introduce you to some ladies who resolved to do the latter, and just so they wouldn’t chicken out, they signed up for computer basic skills training at the Salt & Light computer lab.  I would love to see some men there too (hint, hint)!  These ladies are in their 60s and 70s, and are both apprehensive and excited to learn.  Their main goals are to set-up email accounts so they can stay in touch with family, and to complete online job applications.  That’s right!  Online job applications, because in their own words they have “too much life in us to simply sit around on our bums.” My kind of ladies!

Picture it, Champaign, 2013 (okay, I was channeling Estelle Getty right there – I am a Golden Girls fan!).  Anyway, I get to the lab bright and early to set up for the first day of class.  After making sure the computers were working as they should, I verified that I had the correct amount of hand-outs, and prepared for the arrival of these lovely ladies.  On time and ready to work, they came in, sat down, and the class began.  Of course, the first day was all about reviewing the parts of a computer and how to turn it on and off, but by the third day the ladies wanted to skip ahead a few lessons in order to learn how to set up emails, which we did.  I cannot tell you the emotions that washed over their faces when they sent and received their first emails.  That was nothing compared to the look on the face of one of the ladies when she returned to the lab to find that her granddaughter had forwarded her 21 photos of herself, her husband, and her great-grandchildren whom she had not seen in quite some time.  Even I was choking back tears.

It is wonderful to be able to share in a new chapter of someone else’s life.  Watching these ladies take on new things, even though they are somewhat intimidated by the process, is an amazing experience.  We can do this as a community!  No matter how big or small, let’s help someone reach or start a new chapter in life.  That’s my challenge to you.  Write me back and share your experiences.  I would love to hear from you.

Here’s to you Champaign-Urbana!