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Monday, May 20, 2013

Kelly Miller Middle School students give senior citizens a lesson on technology

Written by Zaryn Jennings
DC SCORES Communications Intern

The room looked a bit like a technology help center at a Verizon store: A young, tech-savvy worker, helping out an older, slightly confused adult.
The only difference between that scenario and the Carver 2000 Senior Mansion last Wednesday afternoon? The young, tech-savvy workers were students from Kelly Miller Middle School and the confused adults were the senior citizens the students helped for the afternoon.
I wasn’t sure of what to expect and I’m not quite sure the students did either as they made their way to the Senior Mansion as part of their DC SCORES service-learning project. Their goal: to educate the senior citizens on the benefits of technology, as well as to help and answer any questions. The kids wanted to bridge the technology gap.

Ultimately, they bridged even more.

When the afternoon began, the students huddled together in the back of the room while the group of 12-15 senior citizens occupied the front. After cookies were eaten and an ice breaker was played, it wasn’t long until friendships were forged.

The students split into two groups to perform skits, one focused on educating the senior citizens about the importance of cell phones, while the other spoke of the importance of computers and email. They were encouraged by the adults in the room who told them as the students performed that “anything you do will be great because we don’t know anything.”

What impressed me the most was what followed the skits. The kids in the room, without any hesitancy, divided themselves amongst the three tables of senior citizens and immediately began helping them in any way they could.

Questions ranged from Facebook and FaceTime, to how to change a ringtone, or get email working on a phone. The kids were patient and polite with their answers. While some of the elders were working with cell phones older and less advanced than theirs, the students didn’t have any problems in figuring out solutions.

A woman, who asked questions about how to check minutes on her phone, told me, “I love talking to these kids. You can just learn so much.” It wasn’t only technology she was talking about.

Conversations became centered on more than just phones and computers as the senior citizens asked the kids about school and soccer. The room was no longer divided between older and younger but rather became a mixture of all the ages right in the middle.
Joshua, a student at Kelly Miller, agreed that the afternoon was beneficial, and said his favorite part was, “Helping them with Facebook and their email. And just helping them.”

Janice, a resident at the Senior Mansion, was grateful the kids came because, “[They] were so helpful!” The questions she had answered and the new tools she learned were “definitely” resources she said she would use in the future.  

In a matter of an afternoon, the young, tech-savvy Kelly Miller students became the instructors — feeling empowered by the chance to make a difference in the lives of others, even those much older than them.

And like one of the residents told me, “Everyone can learn something.”

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