By Dondre Lemon
Mineola High School students are helping elderly members of the community stay up to date with the newest technology.
The school’s computer program is an outgrowth of a previous program at the school, the Eat-in with Students program, where students and elderly members of the community would have lunch together and share stories. The students volunteer for the new computer program to give back to their community. People can attend one of the three hour long, four week sessions during the fall, winter and spring. Participants have come from around the Mineola area and Queens, thanks to the word being spread by families, friends and participants.
Mineola High School juniors Hugo Amador and Valerie Mallon enjoy their time helping with smartphones, laptops and Apple products.
“It’s not like other volunteer programs like book drives,” said Mallon. “It’s personal so you’re directly helping the person with the technology and because we’ve grown up with this for so long we don’t realize older people need help with understanding these things, so it’s very rewarding.”
Students also help with social media, such as transferring Facebook media to save to the galley on the device and downloading music from Spotify or Pandora. Amador helped “a person access radio stations and newspapers from the app store.”
The community members come to the Mineola High School for assistance during the school year. The school sends letters with dates for available sessions, along with information to spread the word about the program using the local or church bulletin boards.
The student services program, which oversees volunteer work and opportunities for the students, has been around for 30 years and is an umbrella organization for 14 other school service groups. High school teachers Claudi Rudnet and Krista O’Donnell lead the program by arranging the days and times people can come in to have their technology questions answered. Rudnet has been working with the program for three years and O’Donnell for a year, who are both pleased with their students and how much the program has benefitted the community.
“One of the sophomores that was helping with the sessions, she met the person who she was tutoring in the lobby and they were literally walking down the hall to the room holding hands, and that is what it is all about, making connection with other people across the generations,” Rudnet said.
“We address any need that they feel pressing and the new thing is all the new apps that these phones have,” O’Donnell said.
“I walked into a conversation about where a router would be or what is a router and the children know it,” Rudnet said.
The program continues to grow with 25 people per session using the students’ knowledge to gain a better understanding of the technological world. The last session had a waiting list.
“I believe it’s a wonderful method to get an insight to how the older generation grew up, which is great,” Amador said. “There’s no intellectual boundaries, just what you grew up with and the environment that you were exposed to.”
“There’s nothing dividing us, but age,” Mallon said.
The free spring course is offered on Wednesdays, March 13, and April 3 and 10, from 2:25 to 3:20 p.m. To register, call 516-237-2614 and leave a message with your name and phone number.
—Dondre Lemon is a journalism student at Long Island University