Shadow Wood computer lab offers more than just tech classes

You are currently viewing Shadow Wood computer lab offers more than just tech classesGiovanna Olea/Community Ambassador
Artwork produced by children at the Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park computer lab

Giovanna Olea works for as a community ambassador in a computer lab at Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park. has opened and operated a computer lab within the park for the community since 2011. Olea writes about her experiences here.

By Giovanna Olea/For – Our computer lab in Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park has been very active lately!

This week, we are putting our hands on Easter decorations. We made posters and we also made bunnies from cotton and paper. The children will take their bunnies before Easter day, so they can share their beautiful hard work with their parents and siblings.

In February, we planned a special day for all the kids who attend the tech classes. Thanks to Pamela Dempsey and Brant Houston, we were able to celebrate big. We provided free candy, drinks and food.

The celebration was a great idea as other children heard that Shadow Wood provides free tech classes for all kids of all ages. Now, more children are enrolled and are taking advantage of the resources we provide. I am proud to see that even just a little bit of our time can help children succeed.

A highlight of this week is that a child I have been working with since the fall has increased her grade from a 67 percent to a 75 percent.

I have noticed that she has problems understanding directions from the instructor. She recently moved to Champaign, so I believe that could be one contributor to her low grade in that class.

The instructor was very cooperative and gave her a username and password so she could have more practice online. She knows what she is doing, but, like I said before, she has problems understanding the directions because they are in English, a completely different language that she never heard until she came to the United States.

At Shadow Wood’s lab, this girl not only receives help with basic computer skills, but she also receives English lessons. I have seen an improvement in her understanding and social development. Speaking more and more English is also helping her make new friends.

I was also working with a woman who was not able find a job. Because she did not complete high school it was difficult for her to find a job with good benefits and a good salary. But even though she did not receive a high school diploma, she was well prepared and skilled. I helped her with online applications in the computer lab.

After a long journey, she finally found a job. It is not a great job, but she is glad that she is now able to support her family.

In 2012, 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. At the end of the grant, retained Olea to continue her work. 

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