During CTN’s 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Awards, Vern was awarded the title of Marathon Man for dedicating five years and counting with CTN to assisting computer learners. Vern chuckles and replies that this is simply a sign of his ever-growing gray hairs. Yet every Monday afternoon he can be found at Excelsior Center forming relationships with new learners.
Vern began working with computers professionally in the early 80s and, among other things, acted as desktop support for the National Park Service. After entering retirement, he wanted to give back to his own community and came across CTN. Vern remembers six eager learners attending his very first class. In a lab with only four computers, he creatively paired learners together on a computer. One of his lessons included directions for ripping a CD in Windows 7 and introducing related concepts such as MP3. He recalls, “That was a real game changer for them — they could now personalize a CD with their own music and listen to it at home.” The lessons continued for about four weeks, and Vern proudly remembers students with “stars in their eyes as they were learning new concepts.” While he is not able to see the long-term outcomes of his lessons and assistance on all learners, Vern is pleased to continue seeing and working with many diverse learners.
Vern emphasizes that the best part of volunteering with CTN is meeting new people every day at the computer lab. He explains, “You learn to be patient in explaining terms and remember to take a step back, to see where a person is coming from — you have people who have lived their lives as grandparents and don’t know anything digital. You have to be careful in going too far with an explanation — and first ensure that their needs are met.”
It is dedicated volunteers like Vern who help CTN bridge the digital divide and ensure access to technology for community members. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!