2002-05-11 / Community

Seniors Learn Computers at Beach Channel HS

By Steve Gellert, COSA

By Steve Gellert, COSA

Maureen Gallagher was back in school on a recent Saturday after a 50-year hiatus as one of about eighty seniors attending the Beach Channel High School’s Saturday morning senior computer classes.

When we met Ms. Gallagher, she was being assisted by 9th grader Nicholas Isabella to open up a program on her computer that would come as second nature to any seven or eight year old. But Ms. Gallagher, like many seniors was trying to decipher how her computer actually worked. It’s a task not easy to understand. She was making some progress.

Still other seniors were being helped by teens old enough to be some of their great grandchildren. William Diffley, 83, was struggling to just get his program open. He admitted he had spent most of his lifetime "out of school, but needed to learn this stuff." He had been "back to school intermittently over the years."

Theresa Morales, a 9th grader whose grandmother is on the school’s teaching staff, was assisting Mr. Diffley. Miss Morales had opted out of her neighborhood high school to attend Beach Channel.

The Saturday morning seniors program is the brainchild of Principal Bernard Gassaway. Hundreds of inquiries, many of which came from "younger" adults, were received thanks to advertising and good word-of-mouth in the Rockaway community.

But, as new staff member Roger Voelker put it, "some seniors just want to come and talk," and that has become an important part of the Saturday program, too. Mr. Voelker couldn’t get over how well the "kids adjusted and really rose to the occasion."

"I like teaching people," admitted Junior LaToya Daniels. Her friend Sharon Holmes shares this opinion, and noted how "some of them catch on really quickly."

The staff, teachers Jaunita Butcher, Sherry Ann Ferguson, Kim Mullen, Tito Burrowes, Muriel Zwick, Irmin Wilford, and Mr. Gassaway were all complimentary towards their "students," and noted they received questions from the seniors they’d never get from the teen counterparts in day school.

It appeared that many people had come because they either had a computer or were contemplating buying one. Seniors Roger and Pat Paterson had a computer that their son purchased for them. The program was a very positive experience for the Patersons among other seniors.

The program had the effect of bringing generations together. Lucille Meade, who was working with LaToya and Sharon, told us she wanted to keep in touch with her grandchildren located across America.

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