Tech Classes Offer Opportunity In West Humboldt Park
Melissa Thurmond and classmates open up their new netbook computers.
Melissa Thurmond graduated college with a degree in accounting, and she's worked in accounts payable at a Moo and Oink grocery store and as the office administrator at a local preschool near her West Humboldt Park home.
Now looking for work, Thurmond found the free Smart Community computer courses offered by local nonprofit Chicago Commons to be a great opportunity to sharpen her skills. "I learned PowerPoint and how to build my own web page," she said. "I'm very excited because I didn't know how to do that before."
On December 20, Thurmond was one of a dozen Humboldt Park tech training graduates who were presented with a netbook computer they earned through the courses. Held at the new Richard M. Daley library in the community, the event was both a celebration and an orientation for how to best use the new machines. Chicago Commons is one of three Humboldt Park organizations offering the Smart Communities tech trainings, along with Bikerdike Redevelopment Corp. and Association House.
Thurmond said she'll use her new computer to look for work and to do research--and other uses that she can't even yet fully imagine. "I usually come to the library to use their computers, but that's limited to two hours a day. Now that I have my own I can use it as much as I want," she said. "I said to myself, 'Merry Christmas a little early!'"
The Smart Community trainings cover a range of capacities and interests, providing something for everyone. Chiquita Compton started with much less experience with computers than Thurmond, for instance, but she says the courses she took were well-designed for beginners.
Chiquita Compton listens to the orientation on how to use the netbook.
"When I first started, it had been a while since I was in school, but it wasn't hard to keep up. We had very good teachers," Compton said. "Once I learned the basic things, I took more courses and learned how to make a resume, typing skills, how to pay bills online."
Edgar Ramirez, the associate executive director of Chicago Commons, explained that the mix of students in the courses has been one of the program's strengths. "The participants in the classes aren't all the typical people that we work with, and we're exploring how to integrate the participants into our other programs," he says. "That's a great way for us to find more people in the community to help."
Chicago Commons is also planning to expand the computer courses to the parents the nonprofit works with at Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, a local community school that offers programs and services to students and their families. "This is a really great opportunity to use computer classes for adult education in the school for both English and Spanish learners," Ramirez said.
With 2012 about to begin, Compton says that her plans include going to cosmetology school, where she already has plans to put her computer to use to post pictures of the kinds of styles she can offer to customers. "I like the feeling of knowing how to use this computer and having the skills and something to offer to life," she said. "Having a computer of my own will be a life-changing experience."
Slideshow of the West Humboldt Park Graduation
Posted in Smart Communities News