Service has always been important to me. As a child I was a member of our local 4-H group that would regularly bring cookies to a local retirement community or sing carols during the holidays. In the summer I would help out in the concession stand at the county fair and act as camp counselor when I was old enough. This love for service stuck with me after getting my first job out of college when I found that I was missing something in my life. I began volunteering for a local school, helping adults with their literacy, and there began my passion for adult education.
Fast forward 10 years — my desire to volunteer shifted to helping adults learn the computer. As a graphic designer, I couldn’t have done my job if it weren’t for my computer skills, and it seemed to me that helping adults gain those skills would be a rewarding project. I describe this in an Ignite talk I gave a few years ago.
One of my volunteer jobs led to full-time employment that led to my lifelong passion to help people gain digital skills. CTN is how I’ve been able to do this work and share my passion with others. Because I started as a volunteer computer trainer, I understood how volunteers could directly impact the lives of adults struggling to gain skills. And even though I was only part-time and had no other staff, I decided to start a volunteer program in 2009. I took from my previous experiences and began recruiting volunteers, offered training, and placed them at one of the three partners we had at the time.
One of our first volunteers was Kyle Warneck. Here’s what he has to say about CTN and his experience as a volunteer:
Over the past 10 years, the fact that it’s important to be online has only become more true. What started as a keen insight has turned into vibrant organization that brings digital learners and volunteers together every day. I’ve seen CTN volunteers work with seniors looking for social connections, job seekers looking for employment, and all kinds of folks that have been left behind by the digital revolution that just want to be connected to what’s going on.
A few years ago, I remember working with one learner at a CTN-supported tech lab who, through some difficult years, had lost contact with his family. Now, as he was putting his life together, he wanted to reconnect. Within 15 minutes of setting up his Facebook account, he was exchanging messages with people he thought he’d lost forever. It was such a powerful moment. It’s so easy to think of the internet as something frivolous or a luxury, but that day sticks with me
It’s been quite a journey. I’m amazed by what CTN has done and excited for what’s to come next.
CTN has had thousands of people help in some way over the years. We’ve had nearly 50 board members, including the current 13 who help with strategy and raising money. There have been hundreds of volunteers who range in age from 13 (Elijah, who worked with seniors and was accompanied by his mom or grandma) to over 70 (Richard, who helped people apply for jobs online). The staff at our partner locations do their part to promote the class schedule and get their community members excited about technology. Donors have given their money and connections. Friends and family are constantly recruited to help in a variety of ways. We literally couldn’t have done this without them. Their dedication to helping others is an inspiration and keeps me motivated to do this work for another 10 years!