The proud graduates at the Computer-for-Kids graduation ceremony on August 20. Photo by Perry Klein.

Astanding room only crowd witnessed the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) Youth Activities Task Force (YATF) Computers-for-kids graduation and reception Aug. 20 at Lucky Kabob Indian Restaurant on First Street, SW. Graduating students included Perrion Ballinger, Kennari Ballinger, Heavin Holmes, Goldie Holmes, John Holmes, Marasia Hudgens, Terrence Walker and Savannah Parks.

Graduating students were presented certificates of completion by senior computer instructor Gerald Brown and new instructor Frank Fu, who also emceed the program. They will also receive a refurbished computer from the SWNA Southwest Technology Task Force with the understanding that they will share the information learned with their entire household.

The graduation’s theme, “Computer Basics: Preparing Young Minds for the Digital Future” aptly reflected the eight weeks of training for the youngest group of students trained since the program’s inception in October 2007. Students are normally ages 10 to 13, however, after noticing the interest expressed by the younger age group, YATF welcomed the seven to nine-year-old age group to the summer session’s one-hour weekly classes.

Students learned about the parts of the computer and their functions with regular hands-on computer exercises and classroom assignments that tested the students’ mastery of the information presented.

“People work on computers everyday,” said instructor Gerald Brown. “However, they do not really know the parts of the computer and their functions. These kids do!”

Graduation requirements included good behavior, participation and attendance. Teachable moments and encouraging good eating habits during snack time were also a regular part of the training. Thanks to the newly installed computer center at Syphax Gardens Resident Council, the students had one of the best attendance records since the program’s inception.

The guest speaker at the graduation was Lisa M. Matthews, Senior Information Technology Consultant, CGI Federal, who was raised in Southwest’s Greenleaf Gardens on K Street, SW.

“I started exactly where you are,” Matthews reminded students. “I listened to and took the advice of my parents, teachers and mentors which helped me to make the right decisions and succeed in life. If you do the same, you can be right up here where I am one day.”

Matthews also read “Oh, The Places You Go” by Dr. Seuss to encourage and remind students about the importance of dreaming and choosing their paths wisely and to ensure success. This was the second time Matthews spoke at the graduation, and she has been a role model to students since she joined the YATF in the mid-1980s to give back to her community. Other program speakers included Rick Bardach, Interim YATF Chairperson, ANC 6D Chair Ron McBee and SWNA President Kael Anderson.

Special recognition was awarded to Gloria Hamilton, president of the Syphax Gardens Resident Council, and ANC 6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton for their efforts in making Syphax Gardens Resident Council computer center available for the training and for presenting each student with a brand new book bag. Special thanks was given to Perry Klein, Chair of the SWNA Technology Task Force, Washington Cable, and Everybody Wins for their support, and Gurnam Singh, Owner of Lucky Kabab Restaurant who made his restaurant available to the community.

Thelma D. Jones is the co-founder of the YATF Computers-for-kids Program. She currently serves as YATF’s Vice Chair and program coordinator.

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