More than 30 guests attended the SWNA Youth Activities Task Force (YATF) Computers-for-Kids graduation on Saturday, Dec. 12. Held in partnership with the James Creek Resident Council located on N St. SW, the winter graduation was déjà vu, as this was the site of the first and most successful computer training class held in Oct. 2007. YATF Chairperson Thelma D. Jones welcomed the guests, which included parents, relatives, and siblings of the eight graduates and noted the enthusiasm of the returning partnership with James Creek Resident Council. Southwest youth leader Dayon Lewis-Thomas, 16, provided an impressive summary of her extracurricular activities (i.e., student athletic trainer, varsity girls basketball manager, junior varsity and varsity boys football manager, member of the flag football team, all while maintaining a 3.2 GPA at Wilson Senior High School), prior to introducing guest speaker Paul L. Rau, youth advocate and YATF member. Rau gave a well-received speech on the elements of succeeding in life, including setting goals, taking advantage of resources, and being adaptable. Although geared to the graduates, Rau’s speech resonated with practically the entire audience. Afterward, the audience sang a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells,” which was a welcomed tune by the young kids.

Senior Computers-For-Kids instructor Gerald Brown and instructor Frank Fu presented the certificates of completion to the following graduates: Kaleb Boulware, Kalia Boulware, Siani Crews, Antwon Gibson, Sky Simons, Chantell Switzer, Jaylen Jenkins, and Adrionna Williams. Each student received personalized gift items compliments of YATF members Jenelle Leonard and Thelma D. Jones. The students will also receive one refurbished computer per family from the SWNA Technology Task Force under the leadership of Perry Klein. Instructors Brown and Fu also acknowledged and presented the volunteers with a certificate of participation. Volunteers included YATF members Paul L. Rau, Nanette Cochran, Renee Feder, Jenelle Leonard, Cheryl-Hansberry Moore, Christine Spencer, and Anna Fu, spouse of instructor Frank Fu. A special recognition was awarded to Christine Spencer, vice president of the James Creek Resident Council, for her leadership efforts in ensuring the success of the winter class. Spencer was instrumental in recruiting the students, assisting with overall attendance records, and providing the space at James Creek’s computer center, which was also set up by the SWNA Technology Task Force.

Graduation requirements included good attendance, good behavior, and good participation. The eight-week program of one-hour classes on Tuesday evenings covered computer parts, typing skills, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and creating biography and autobiography Internet searches. In addition, healthy snacks were served to the students accompanied by brief and engaging talks on healthy eating. Incentives were awarded to the students with perfect attendance and who had the most guests present. Khalil Boulware and Adrionna Williams were awarded $10 each for perfect attendance and Adrionna was awarded $10 for having the most guests (10 family members). Incentives continue to be a part of the program. Previously, chairperson Jones and instructor Brown have awarded first ($75), second ($50), and third place ($25) prizes to the students for perfect attendance and for inviting the most guests. Gionnia Marshall, 11, who graduated in June 2014, attended along with her mother and young sibling. Marshall won the incentive award in 2014 for inviting 15 family members, including her parents, maternal and paternal grandmothers, maternal and paternal aunts and uncles, and cousins, making it one of the YATF’s most well attended graduations.

Closing remarks were provided by Southwest resident Demetric Mason, 22, a fitness instructor and entrepreneur. Mason is interested in working with the YATF in providing lessons on fitness and wellness and was inspired by the YATF’s efforts to provide healthy snacks and refreshments during the classes and at the graduation’s reception.

A special thanks to the Friends of Southwest DC, Washington Cable, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Officer Marshall, who underwrote the cost of the pizzas and drinks that complemented the healthy refreshments.

By: Thelma D. Jones

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