Students teach tech

Tupper teens sharing smartphone, computer, social media savvy weekly at library

Twelfth-grader Emily Burns and 11th-grader Kirsten Denis help Jerry and Eileen Hayes figure out how to move photos from emails to their computer for Christmas cards. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — High school students from this town’s National Honors Society will be in the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library every Wednesday, sharing their expertise in what millennials are best known for: smartphones, computers and social media.

Anyone of any age who needs assistance using these technologies can visit the 11th- and 12th-grade students after classes let out at 3 p.m. to learn how to use their devices, fix problems with the technology and clear up confusion over how to best use these new tools.

The program is an outcome of Mercy Care for the Adirondacks and the Tupper Lake Aging in Place Task Force’s intergenerational relationship-building event at the Wild Center in November, when students and elderly members of the community shared conversation and lunch.

Asked at the event what they wished the Tupper Lake library would do, several senior citizens said they needed help with technology. Jennifer Merlob, the National Honors Society adviser, got students to design a poster and offer the technology tutoring sessions as part of the 30 hours of community service they commit to in the society.

At the first session on Wednesday, 12th-grader Emily Burns and 11th-grader Kirsten Denis helped president of Mercy Care Jerry Hayes, 70, and retired L.P. Quinn Elementary School teacher Eileen Hayes, 66, transfer photos from email to their laptop for Christmas cards.

Twelfth-grader Emily Burns and 11th-grader Kirsten Denis are two of the 17 students in Tupper Lake’s National Honor Society who will be offering technology assistance at the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library every Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

The Hayes said they are both familiar with technology through their jobs but don’t have much experience outside of the hospital or school.

“You only learn in technology what you really need to know at the time,” Eileen said.

They said the one-on-one attention the session provides is helpful in retaining what they learned and addressing individual questions.

“It’s like going to the doctor,” Jerry said.

The students, who will work two at a time, learned everything they know about technology by absorbing it, as they were raised surrounded by the products, tools and gadgets.

“We just grew up around it. In elementary school I had computer classes ever since I entered first grade,” Denis said.

Burns took a robotics course in which she learned to code, and Denis learned Adobe Photoshop in a graphic design class.

“We were there to watch the switch from flip phones to smartphones, and we were able to see how the very first smartphone evolves into something unimaginable,” Burns said.

The high school students make sure they do not overwhelm the people they are helping, giving them clear and uncomplicated steps to follow.

“I admire their determination,” Denis said, as they struggled to convert the photos but Eileen resolved to keep trying. “Also, just them wanting to learn is admirable. They could ignore all this and be like, ‘This is just for another generation.'”

Just because the students have used the devices their whole lives does not mean they know everything about them. Burns and Denis said they were learning parts of how to convert the photos for the Hayes at the same time, relaying the solutions as they learned them.

Burns said the Hayes’ patience made it easier for them to work when the program was not, keeping the atmosphere calm and focused. She also said she felt she grew in the honor society’s four pillars: scholarship, service, leadership and character.

“I think I’ve definitely gained a stronger sense of community,” Burns said. “Like [Denis] said, you meet a lot of different people, and instead of just faces in the crowd you start to realize that with every face comes a person. Being able to help them is a very rewarding experience.”


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