Monday, October 01, 2007

They said, "It can't be done"

Several people told me, "It won't happen. The people in Turner Courts won't take advantage of a computer lab."

I don't buy into comments like that. If something is of value, people will take advantage of it. If it doesn't fit their need or they don't get anything out of it, they won't come. But, sure enough, during the month of August, 29 people accessed the daytime, adult part of the Educational Outreach Center (EOC) 73 times. During September, 23 people accessed it 42 times.

People come in each day to look for jobs, read their myspace page, make flyers, or just explore and learn about the computer and the internet.

The EOC is not one of those fine-tuned programs run by a high degreed person who has decided to take a pay cut to "do good" and "teach" people in the inner city; it's much better.

The daytime adult portion of the EOC is run by Sylvia, a resident of Turner Courts who, she will tell you herself, has a limited knowledge of computers. It doesn't matter. She is amazing. She has enrolled in a computer class at CDM's Technology Learning Center so that she can utilize what she's learned in the EOC and assist other neighbors with questions they might have.

As a result of some of the things she's learned, she creates a weekly newsletter and distributes it to the community, which is probably part of what is drawing more and more people to the EOC and to the After-School Academy.

She is working on a blog that she will use to tell what is going on at the EOC. She is also planning to make the blog accessible to the community so that they can post entries as well. It's just getting started, but you can see it at http://www.lovethyneighbors.blogspot.com/.

The EOC is a very organic effort with the hopes of providing a a place for "community" to develop.

Ms. Haynes is part of our community. She's there nearly every day the doors are open. Her regular visits started by having cups of coffee with Sylvia. Now she's a regular internet surfer. I have even seen her giving other residents "tours" of the EOC.

Why does Ms. Haynes come to the computer lab? "To have conversations with my grandkids." "So you email them?" I wondered. "Oh no! Not yet," she explained. She went on to tell me she comes to surf the internet so she knows what her grandkids are talking about, so that she can have conversations with them about the internet, and so that she can seek out upcoming DISD events she knows her grandchildren will be a part of. She told me because of the access to the internet she was able to find out about and attend one of their events she wouldn't have known about otherwise. How cool is that?!

Now that the EOC is up and running and doing well, I know outside people (not the neighbors who utilize the center) are going to start wanting "programs." I wonder we often don't feel something is successful unless we have filled people up with our knowledge.

If anyone has the urge to "programatize" the EOC I really hope they will think of Ms. Haynes and realize what she is getting out of the EOC just as it is.
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