Graduates Nardos Buleta, Jakayla Williams and Jamia Williams, along with Senior Instructor Gerald W. Brown; Photo by Perry Klein

The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Youth Activities Task Force (SWNA YATF) held its Computer-for-Kids (CFK) Computer Training Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 26, for the latest three students to complete the training program. The graduation’s theme, “Using Technology to Enable New Learning Experiences and Empower Educational Effectiveness,” allowed the guest speakers to incorporate this in their various talks and remarks.

The graduation’s highlight was the three proud graduates, including Nardos Buleta, 7, and Jakayla and Jamia Williams, 9 and 8, respectively, who met the graduation requirements of good attendance, good behavior and good participation, out of at least 15 students who originally had attended the first couple of classes. Parental engagement and a commitment to ensuring that their children graduated from the program will prove invaluable to them for a lifetime. This graduation brought YATF’s total number of graduates to more than 150 students since the program’s inception in Oct. 2007.

Students attend a series of 8-10 weekly afterschool classes to learn the basics of computer use and get an introduction to using Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and accessing the Internet to search for information. They are also provided healthy snacks and enjoy teachable moments which might include a brief talk on healthy eating, respecting others or bullying.

The classes are held at the computer lab at the James Creek Resident Council, a partner of CFK since the program’s inception.

The big prize, for students who meet the graduation requirements, is the gift of a refurbished desktop computer like the one they trained on during class to take home. The computers are provided compliments of the SWNA Technology Task Force, a partner since the program’s inception. The Technology Task Force was recently awarded a grant from the Friends of SW DC to help support the distribution of computers for this graduating class.

Thelma D. Jones, SWNA YATF Chair, organized and introduced the event. Rose Shelton, Co-President, Amidon-Bowen PTA, provided greetings which included a wealth of information about Amidon-Bowen’s enrollment process and the school’s programs and activities. Greetings on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser were provided by Mikaela Ferrill, Ward 6 Liaison, Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services.

Guest Speaker Drew Cannon, Certified Scrum Master, Federal Government Consultant, who has more than a decade of experience in the field of information technology, talked about the influence his parents, grandparents and mentors had in terms of him achieving his goals. He also focused on the need for students to realize that their choices always have consequences. A proud Ward 8 resident, Drew is a graduate of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL where he earned both a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and an MBA. He is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated and has volunteered regularly over the years in shaping the minds of young people as a middle school basketball coach among other volunteer activities, including honing his skills as a baker.

The graduation also recognized Gerald W. Brown, CFK’s Senior Computer Instructor, for his more than 11 years of outstanding volunteer service to the CFK Training Program. Gerald’s full-time job is a veteran employee of the World Bank Group where he serves as an Information Security Officer who writes policy, reviews business plans and has trained staff on a global level. Brown has also assisted in mentoring the students and training other YATF volunteers, including Jenelle Leonard, Cheryl Moore, Bonnie and Vic Sutton and Christine Spencer, President, James Creek Resident Council.

Some 50 family members, friends and SWNA YATF supporters attended the graduation which was held at River Park Mutual Homes South Common Room in Southwest D.C. A reception followed with background music by DJ “Hostess with the Mostess” aka Regina Blye, a SW resident and Federal Government employee and activist for people with disabilities. Also, special thanks to YATF Members Jeanne Mattison, Vyllorya Evans and Amidon PTA Co-President Allison Harvey.

The next CFK training program is expected to commence in March. Parents interested in enrolling their children in the computer training program should email or call Thelma D. Jones at thelma@swna.org or 202-251-1639. Volunteers are always welcome to assist during the classes as well. Also, if you are interested in helping SWNA YATF in sustaining and growing the program, please consider donating by mailing a check payable to the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and noting YATF in the memo line. Alternatively, you may donate via the website at www.swna.org and click “Donate.”

By Vic Sutton

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