Graduations are often referred to as commencement ceremonies because they signify the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of the graduates, as well as their families and friends. Seven young people gathered with family and friends at the James Creek Resident Council to celebrate their new beginning as the most recent slate of graduates from the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Youth Activities Task Force (SWNA YATF) Computer-for-Kids computer training program. The graduates, ranging from age 9 to 14, are the latest group to complete the program which began at James Creek and has run continuously in the community since 2007.

The classes were held in the computer lab at the James Creek Resident Council under the supervision of Thelma D. Jones, Chair, SWNA YATF, and resident council president Christine Spencer. The instructors for this session were Jenelle Leonard, Cheryl Hansberry and Gerald Brown. All are long-time participants and contributors to the computer training program.

This session’s graduating class included Troi Alexander, Trumonty Brisco, Andrew Everett, Rosie Hagans, Rico Hines, Mason Locksley and Derrick Moss. With their families cheering them on, the graduates enjoyed an intimate reception with a buffet of healthy refreshments and special treats brought in by the volunteers. Each graduate received a certificate recognizing their achievements. They also each received a gift bag compliments of DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, containing a colorful copy of a children’s book entitled “Martin’s Dream Day” by Kitty Kelley and photographs by Stanley Tretick, among other items. Students were regular attendees to the computer classes which were held one night each week for 8 consecutive weeks. The classes focused on computer skill fundamentals such as keyboarding and computer parts, and also delved into successful use of internet research tools for school work and basic use of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. In looking at growth possibilities, YATF is considering expanding the training offered for older students (ages 9-12) to possibly include supplemental activities that focus on coding which create more interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and math programs.

Commencement speaker Paul Taylor, former site lead, King-Greenleaf Recreation Center, spoke to the graduates about his life and successful growth through SWNA programs into the positions he has held in the community, and now with the Department of Corrections. He implored the children to continue to work hard and do their best for a successful future, and he encouraged their parents and family members to maintain their encouraging participation.

The volunteer driven program, started by Jones in 2007, draws talented volunteers from the community and beyond. To date, the program has graduated more than 130 students (ages 5-14), with dozens of volunteers throughout the years. Having been in the pipeline from early childhood, several students have received scholarships from the SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force. In addition to the training, the graduates received refurbished computers to take home, provided by Perry Klein, Chair, SWNA’s Technology Task Force, at the end of the graduation ceremony. Jones and the other volunteers are looking forward to greater levels of community involvement and more enriching experiences for many more children. To register for upcoming computer trainings, please email thelma@swna.org or call 202-251-1639.

BY Gerald Brown, a veteran employee of The World Bank Group, who is the senior volunteer instructor for the Computer-for-Kids training program. Brown has served as a volunteer instructor since the program’s inception and recruited and trained other instructors.

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