“It’s not about the computer. That is an aspect of the work, but it is mostly about teaching, communication, and meeting people where they are,” says Jared Boddum, one of CTN’s longest-serving volunteers.
Jared’s journey with CTN began back in 2015. At the time, he was searching for volunteer opportunities that would involve his Chinese-speaking skills. When he first interviewed with CTN, it was clear that Jared would make an incredible addition to our volunteer team. Not only did he speak Chinese, but he also spoke Spanish, German, and four other languages.
Soon after Jared completed his volunteer training and got started, he decided to up his volunteering to twice a week. Eventually, his volunteer work with CTN expanded into a much larger engagement. In his first year, he served at seven different locations and worked with hundreds of seniors. In 2017, he was awarded the Digital Changemaker Award for his 400 hours of service to the Chinese-American community. He was also granted the Time Traveler Award for spending more than 280 hours serving in the Digital Literacy Corps — the most hours of all our volunteers.
Fast forward to 2021: Jared has now worked with CTN off and on for the past six years. He has taken on many different roles — from an in-person group instructor at different centers to a staff bilingual digital literacy trainer to a remote digital coach for Home Connect. Along the way, Jared has grown tremendously as a teacher and communicator — finding ways to connect with wide varieties of people and meet the learners wherever they are in their digital education.
Jared recognizes the importance of creating a learning environment that encourages curiosity while also emphasizing safety. His teaching motto, for instance, is don’t say don’t. “There are elements to the internet that are very magical and elements that are very negative,” says Jared. “Students tend to want it to be the magical part; they may come from negative circumstances that day or in their life. If you say ‘don’t do that,’ they’re on the other side of asymmetry and don’t know as much about it. You have to use persuasion. You have to manage expectations. There are several things you have to do as a capable teacher to make sure that the cybersecurity curriculum is internalized and understood.”
Over the years, Jared’s language skills have enabled him to serve a wide variety of learners, many of whom he would have never encountered outside of CTN. These unique relationships have strengthened Jared’s bilingual skills and exposed him to new social contexts. “When you speak a language conversationally,” he reflects, “you don’t necessarily know how to speak about a computer or a Google search. CTN has been really helpful in that regard. It has a tremendously positive impact on speaking naturally, explaining concepts in different cultural contexts, grounding the lessons in things that learners are familiar with.”
We are incredibly grateful for Jared’s consistent service to CTN’s community, as well as the many insights he provides. Though he has served CTN’s learners for years now, Jared doesn’t take for granted that even a small interaction with a learner can make a difference. “With CTN, it is not a vague situation. I know that I will be helping specific people, and there will be a specific impact. I would say it’s important for volunteers to know that even if they volunteer for a short time, they can have a big impact. In this age of connectivity, it’s something you can stick with for a long time.”