Senior adults learn new computer skills

Published 6:00 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

Most students meet the end of a class with excitement.

That did not happen at Thursday’s graduation ceremony forGenerations On Line (GOL), an Internet literacy course for senioradults sponsored by Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Brookhaven’sJimmy Furlow Senior Citizen Center hosted the course and thegraduation ceremony.

“I’m sorry the class is over,” said Roosevelt Cruel, a GOLstudent who spoke at the graduation ceremony.

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Other graduates nodded in agreement following thisstatement.

Brookhaven’s GOL program teaches the most elementary computerskills: how to turn a computer on, operate the mouse, send andreceive e-mail and search the Internet. GOL participants need thebasic, but essential, skills.

Students typically begin with almost no knowledge of computersor the Internet. Cruel referred to himself as “computerilliterate.”

Virginia Wooten, another graduate of the program, alsoemphasized her initial ignorance.

“I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on,” Wooten said.

The class is self-guided and allows students to move at theirown pace; some students finish in a few weeks, but others takeseveral months. The program’s “coaches” provide one-on-oneattention to students.

Cruel said the presence of computers has created a separationbetween generations. Because of this separation, he said that whenhe began the program, he was very “jittery.”

According to the graduation program, GOL is aimed at “reducingthe digital divide.” GOL can boast consistent results.

“Probably 90 percent of our students didn’t have any intent ofevery owning a computer or ever using one. But almost withoutexception, they graduate and then go out and buy themselves one,”said Peggy Bankston, a coach with the program.

GOL is funded and operated by Co-Lin. Co-Lin receives a grantfrom Senior Service America (SSA) to make local programs like theone in Brookhaven possible.

SSA is a non-profit organization that advocates for senioradults. SSA also operates job-training programs for senioradults.

Co-Lin and SSA have partnered since 1972. However, Co-Lin’s GOLprogram is more recent.

It began in February 2010. Since that time, 56 students havecompleted the program. Another 177 are currently enrolled andanticipated to graduate.

The success of Co-Lin’s SSA-funded programs is known far outsidethe region. Those programs receive very good marks by the nationalSSA organization said Charlotte Stewart, job developer for SSAinitiatives at Co-Lin.

Stewart said the good national marks result from the quality ofthe coaches in the GOL program. Students in the program stronglyechoed the sentiment.

“The coaches are more than teachers,” Wooten said. “They aregood friends.”

Though the class may be over, Cruel said his education isnot.

“I’m still learning,” he said.

Cruel hopes to sit in on the next class when it begins, providedspaces are available. However, even if that doesn’t happen, GOL hasequipped its students to learn on their own.

“I won’t have to rely on others now,” Cruel said. “This classprovides instant freedom and has opened a lot of doors for me toresearch for myself.”