June 21, 2011
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Eighteen members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge recently graduated from the inaugural Comcast Digital Connectors program.
The program, which is the only one in Virginia, is operated through a partnership with Comcast and One Economy to educate children on digital literacy and leadership skills, according to Laurie Wardle, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge.
The students also learned life management skills such as résumé writing and interviewing, Wardle said.
The program began in September after Comcast installed a computer lab at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge Teen Center in Martinsville, said Kim Barto, a Boys and Girls Clubs board member.
Participants received more than 150 hours of instruction and contributed more than 50 hours of community service, Wardle said.
They were taught three days a week for more than two hours each day after school on digital literacy skills, such as how to network computer labs, connect wireless access points and create video documentaries, she said.
Participants took apart a computer and put it back together, then donated the computer to a needy family, said Barto.
Students completed about half of the courses required for information technology (IT) certification. The courses were taught through computer education modules by Cisco (a computer networking company), Barto said.
Participants spoke positively of their experiences during a graduation ceremony Thursday at the teen center.
“I learned a lot about technology, how to navigate computers and people skills,” said Jordan Cochran, one of the participants.
Tre Wooten, also a participant, learned how “modems and routers connect to each other,” he said.
James Goodman said he learned the different parts of the computer and also how the World Wide Web works.
Wardle said the students also were trained on how to use the Microsoft Office Suite programs and Everfi, which is a financial literacy education platform.
“(Everfi) prepares you for the actual work force,” Goodman said.
They all completed community service hours by teaching computer literacy to elementary school children in the area and to visitors at Fast Track, the annual trade show in Martinsville.
A video documentary that the students completed was a promotional commercial for the community, the Digital Connectors program and the Boys and Girls Clubs. The participants traveled to Richmond with Comcast to film the commercial, according to Wardle.
They also took a field trip to Virginia Tech to tour its technology department. That was an opportunity for the students to tour a college campus and to see the opportunities for further study and in the field, Wardle said.
The purpose of the program is for the participants “to be job-ready when they leave high school,” Wardle added.
Students also “learned commitment and community,” said Katie Waddell, the Digital Connectors program instructor.
It showed the students how they can “make a goal and see it to completion,” Waddell said.
The Boys and Girls Clubs participants ranged in age from 14 to 17 and included homeschoolers and students from the city and county schools, Wardle said.
At the ceremony Thursday night, among those celebrating the accomplishments of the participants were Boys and Girls Clubs and Comcast leaders and staff, representatives from One Economy, parents and family members of the Digital Connectors graduates and members of the community.
Each student received a certificate of recognition, a Netbook computer and a Flip camera for completing the program.
The graduates of the Digital Connectors program were: Brady Bowers, Cameron Boyd, Jordan Cochran, Corbin Cockram, Riley Coulson, James Goodman, Gianna Green, Patrick Halpin, Ashley Hubbard, Helen Nguyen, DeAnna Redd, Jillian Smith, Robert Wardle, Kate Williams, Cameron Williams, Caroline Williams, Tre Wooten and Kristeena Yates.
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