Dixwell Neighborhood Technical Access Center Offers Free Computer Classes to Residents

The Technology Access Center at Stetson Free Public Library will kick off free computer classes aimed at residents of the Dixwell neighborhood starting February 7.

The Technology Access Center (TAC), a joint effort by Yale University, SNET and the New Haven Free Public Library, opened on January 18. Yale contributed a digital divide grant of $75,000 as well as 140 computers, of which 23 are being used in the TAC. The balance are slated for other uses. Six computers utilize wireless Internet technology and are mounted on carts to be wheeled anywhere within the library.

Frank Meoli, the TAC’s director, said the number of residents using the center varies from day to day but is usually in the 20-25 person range. He and Charlene Cupole, the student coordinator/trainer, supervise a staff of volunteer students from Career High School, Yale students, volunteers from SNET, and library staff. Meoli and Cupole provide on-site supervision nightly.

A one-to-one instructional/coaching model has been employed, said Meoli. “We ask customers what they want to learn or do this evening and someone is assigned to work with them to accomplish their desired results,” he added.

Meoli said his customers have so far accomplished the following: established email accounts, learned word processing, written resumes and letters applying for a job or requesting an interview for a job, written agendas or minutes for community meetings, and used the Internet to shop for a car, plan a vacation, or research topics of interest to them. One visitor attempted to make contact via the Internet with a brother who had been separated from him by adoption, Meoli added.

Meoli said classes beginning February 7 include Computer Basics, Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to E-mail, and Introduction to Word Processing. Classes will be limited to six participants with a choice of when to take a session, either from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. or from 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. All classes will be 45 minutes long with the first 30 minutes devoted to instruction and the last 15 minutes for practice and questions.

A week-long schedule has been developed and people are signing up, Meoli said. A new set of courses, presented at a slightly higher level, will be offered every two weeks. All classes will be taught by the TAC’s volunteers.

The TAC’s use is widely varied, considering that a potential Eagle Scout had inquired about doing his project to the benefit of the TAC, said Meoli. A Yale-affiliated group that works with youth has inquired about using the Center, as have New Haven literacy volunteers.

The TAC is the result of a collaboration between the partners. SNET provided the Digital Divide grant and high-speed Internet access while Yale University provided the TAC’s computer equipment, technical personnel, and administration of an intensive training program. The New Haven Public Schools’ Youth Tech Corps – a group of students from Hill Regional Career High School – will also help staff the Center.

Through the program, the Youth Tech Corps members sharpened their skills in word processing, desktop publishing and efficient use of the Internet. In addition to the participation of the Youth Tech Corps, another group of students from Career High School has developed a vigorous marketing plan designed to attract patrons from under-served communities to the TAC.

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