Students work on their keyboarding skills (above left); while later instructor Jan Hawkins gives student Jean McMillen some help during a recent class.
Imagine raising a child in our tech-dependent world without the benefit of a computer or the skills to use one. Sounds challenging, no? Two Garfield Middle School staff members have helped bring a program to their school that will help eliminate this problem for 14 Garfield parents who not only will be able to help themselves at the end of the program, but help their children as well.
While at an educational technology expo, April Georgius, Garfield’s media specialist, and computer teacher Nancy Patterson learned of a program called Connect Your Community that offers a six-week free computer training program for adults. Not only is it a free program, but participants who complete the 24 hours of class time receive a free, refurbished computer for their home as well as highly discounted broadband Internet service for a year.
Georgius and Patterson knew they had to find a way to bring the program to Lakewood City Schools.
“We saw this as a way to reach out to the community,” Georgius said. She and Patterson knew that helping Garfield parents with their computer skills would have an impact on their students as well.
“Thanks to this class the parents will be able to navigate to Progressbook and check their child’s grades, provide guidance on class research and assignments, communicate through email with teachers, monitor their student’s Facebook account, as well as check their student’s internet browsing history,” Georgius said.
Jan Hawkins, Outreach/Intake Coordinator for Connect Your Community, which is part of the Cleveland Housing Network, teaches the class while Georgius and Patterson volunteer their time and money by assisting with the twice-a-week evening classes and pitching in for pizza for the group. Georgius and Patterson also plan on picking up the tab for the yearly Internet service at $120 for one class member chosen in a drawing and will also donate a webcam for a class member.
In class, Hawkins covers basic computer skills that include emailing, browsing the web, finding and storing information as well as learning software programs Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The course is geared toward practical applications such as resumes and budgeting that will help these adults manage their lives better and help or perhaps improve their employment status.
“I’m hoping I can possibly get a better job (with her improved computer skills) or improve in my current job,” said class participant Jean McMillen.
Half of the class participants are parents of ESL students. These parents speak little or no English but manage to learn nonetheless. Some come with interpreters, family friends or a son or daughter who is willing to sit with them each week and help.
“Being able to bring this information to students without a good command of English has been both challenging and uplifting,” Hawkins said. “From the first class when one of the ESL parents noted on his application that he was taking the class to ‘Help my community’ to last week's exploration of a website to learn English, it has been gratifying to see the comprehension on students faces when learning a new aspect of working with a computer.”
Georgius, Hawkins and Patterson have all been impressed by the commitment these parents have to improving their education.
“I’m very impressed on how dedicated all these parents are,” Patterson said. “Their work ethic has been impeccable. They haven’t missed a class, they’re always on time and/or arrive early…”
Georgius and Patterson would like to expand the class offering to more schools next year but that is dependent on Connect Your Community receiving further funding as the grant that makes the program possible expires this year. For them, the experience is invaluable.
Said Patterson: “These parents are exceptional role models for their children by showing them what it takes to be an excellent student and demonstrating just how important educations is in their lives today and for their future successes.”