By Derek Tawiah

CFK Instructors Gerald Brown and Jenelle Leonard, along with
CFK graduate, Ashia Butts; Courtesy of Perry Klein

Recently, I had the privilege of emceeing the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Youth Activities Task Force (SWNA-YATF’s) Computers-for-Kids (CFK) computer training program graduation. CFK occurs in the fall, spring, and summer months in partnership with the James Creek Resident Council, 100 N St. SW, under the leadership of Christine Spencer, Resident Council President. 

Created in October 2007 with the goal of reducing the digital divide in Southwest, the program has graduated more than 160 students ages 5-14, as well as senior residents. Students complete eight weeks of one-hour training with healthy snacks while meeting the graduation requirements of good attendance, good participation, and good behavior. Taught by highly skilled instructors, the students are taught the parts of the computer, keyboarding, Word, Excel, Power Point, and Internet searches. Upon completion, the students are given desktop computers to take home and share with their families. The computers are refurbished and provided by SWNA’s Technology Task Force.

With the theme of Using Technology to Enable New Learning Experiences and Empower Educational Effectiveness,” the students welcomed words of wisdom from two incredible women, including Donna J. Purchase, SWNA Acting President, and Guest Speaker Sgt. Evelyn Simmons (retired), First District Community Outreach Unit, Metropolitan Police Department. Sgt. Simmons inspired us with her dynamism and the story of her upbringing and strong family values, which, despite growing up in a single parent household and other personal hardships, helped to shape and pave the way to her success. The YATF’s graduation was a chance for the graduates to have their efforts and hard work celebrated by their instructors, family members, and friends. The CFK graduates included Marquette Bailey, Marshayia Bailey, Ashia Butts, Asianay Butts, and Alajha Gamble. 

YATF also provides other opportunities for the CFK students, such as cultural field trips to the movies, theater, Kennedy Center, skating activities, baseball games, and trips to the World Bank Group. In supporting more than 200 families annually through YATF’s overall efforts,  members feel that they are not only reducing the digital divide in our community but also making a huge difference in the lives of its youth and their families. 

Being a college graduate, as well as working in a profession that requires me to utilize my computer skills on programs similar to the ones taught to the CFK, I understand and appreciate YATF’s efforts. The skills they are instilling in both the youth and the seniors will go a long way in building computer literacy. SUNY-Albany graduate Raihanata Barry shared my sentiments in her closing remarks. She remarked that the training program also enables students an opportunity to acquire skills that will truly be beneficial in life in a broad spectrum of activities. Businesses and companies value those with computer expertise as it makes running its operations more efficient and cost effective. 

Program supporters and volunteers included instructors Gerald Brown and Jenelle Leonard, who presented the certificates to the graduates. SWNA Technology Task Force Chair Perry Klein made available the refurbished computers, and ANC6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton, Jamal O. Jones, Cheryl H. Moore, Gabriele Strauch, Bonnie and Vic Sutton, Washington Cable, and YATF Chair Thelma D. Jones coordinated the graduation. A special thanks to the Friends of SWDC who provided a grant to the SWNA Technology Task Force to help ensure that the computers were refurbished and available for the graduating youth.

Derek Tawiah is a recent graduate of State University of New York at Albany (SUNY).

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