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Confidence building through computers at Interfaith Outreach

April 19, 2018

By Sophia Haire, CTEP AmeriCorps Member at Interfaith Outreach

Esmeralda came into the computer lab I coordiant as a CTEP AmeriCorps member at Interfaith Outreach looking for new skills. She was searching for a part-time job, and a variety of personal factors were limiting her options. Many of her searches directed her back to office assistant work, but she was not feeling confident in her abilities to use and understand the computer tools that she needed to succeed.

Motivated as she is, she hit the ground running. Before Esmeralda started computer training through my AmeriCorps program at Interfaith Outreach, she had only really heard of Microsoft Word and Excel, and had very little grasp of computer terminology. But Esmeralda was determined to learn it all. Within less than four weeks, she was creating complicated headers in Word, writing her own Excel formulas, and uploading photos to Google Drive. Even after passing the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Northstar Digital Litearcy Assessments, she kept coming back to the computer lab to practice and ask detailed questions that floored and amazed both volunteers and staff.

Recently, Esmeralda has applied her computer skills to a secretarial volunteer position with her church. She has developed a brand standard for her church’s documents, has learned elements of graphic design and minor photo editing within Microsoft Office, and has been applying complicated print settings in Excel to produce informational data booklets for her congregation.

She comes to the computer lab often to test the boundaries of what is possible in Microsoft Office and produce incredible materials. The most challenging project she has gotten done is creating an end-of-year finance spreadsheet for her church and turning it into a readable booklet for her team.

Esmeralda says that her favorite skill to learn was Microsoft Excel. Before starting her training, she had seen Excel before, but was overwhelmed by the interface and vast amount of commands. But now that she has learned (and even mastered) the software, she says that “I am able to confidently take on a project and know that I will get it done.”

Our 35 AmeriCorps members teach digital skills at four main types of Twin Cities host sites: 1) libraries, 2) community media centers, 3) employment centers, and 4) schools for adult learners. These sites integrate technology training to help give adults and youth the 21st century digital skills they need to be successful.

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