KidSpirit

At First Impact

Discovery and ProgressAwesome Moments

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”– Aesop

Anxious, nervous, excited. All of these words could describe the way I felt the night before I had to teach my first class on technology. I had been up late that night, turning, tossing, sweating bullets. Would anyone think the class was helpful or leave in the middle of it? Would I freeze up and begin rambling like Donkey from Shrek?

In 2012, I started a nonprofit organization called Technocademy, offering free technology lessons to senior citizens, and set up classes at senior living centers throughout the Atlanta area. Ever since I could remember, I have been helping both sets of my grandparents with their technology needs, whether teaching them how to use a new phone or setting up their computers and printers.

So, it occurred to me, “Why not help other grandparents understand these concepts and how to use them properly as senior citizens seem to have a difficult time keeping up with the new technology.” I also organized a group of tech-savvy volunteers from my high school to help me teach these classes. Initially I thought I would need dozens of seniors to show up for each lesson for it to be successful, not fully realizing the impact from my own work.

On the day of the first class, I went through my perfunctory routine: checking for business emails, reviewing the lesson plan, and briefing the other volunteers. Yet there was something different about that first lesson. By the time I finally walked into the massive, stone-pillared senior living center, my stomach was tied in knots. The other volunteers, a few classmates from the National Technical Honor Society at my school, and I were directed to the media room. It was a lively and scenic room, yet eerily quiet and still with not a single soul in the room. I began to panic and doubt myself. Will anyone show up?

After a few minutes alone in the room, one senior woman walked in. She was dressed in a slick pink jacket and was holding an iPad in one hand, gripping it so tightly her fingers were turning red. She sat down and, as if on cue, said “I have no idea how to use this thing.”

My team and I began explaining the basic buttons and functions. When finished, her eyes lit up as if there were a bulb blinking inside her head and she beamed a wide smile. Her smile became contagious and I found myself excited about sharing my knowledge on a topic I know like the back of my hand. In today’s world, technology is easier for younger generations having grown up around it. I sometimes take it for granted and forget there may be millions, possibly billions, of people who are still digitally illiterate.

A few minutes later, a second woman with nicely coiffured hair entered the room. She, too, had a cell phone in her hand and said, “I need some help adjusting the volume.” The other volunteers and I helped both ladies at the same time, explaining and patiently answering their questions. We were so engrossed that we didn’t realize an hour had passed.

Up until that point, I was a little disappointed. My dreams of a first class filled with dozens of seniors did not work out. I felt as if I had not achieved my goal. It was like like trying to skip a small pebble across a stream and having it sink before the first bounce. But then, the second woman got up and said, “Thank you so much. I wasn’t able to speak with my family but I can now call them and listen to their voicemails.” She threw her hands up in relief, and nodded appreciatively. Her eyes and face glowed, something not present a few minutes before. I was, at the same time, surprised and elated by her reaction. Then it hit me: I had made a difference in the lives of seniors, even though there were only two of them in the first class.

At that moment, right in the middle of a summer Georgia day, I felt a tingle in my heart, not from successfully completing the lesson or realizing none of the seniors left before the class ended. Rather I knew I had made a difference for the better, even if my efforts affected only two people. I learned that not everything in life is about statistics and this motivated me to continue with Technocademy. Even though only two seniors attended the first class, the lesson made just as big an impact as it did later when there were forty people in class. I picture that moment all the time when I am volunteering, knowing that the woman with the nicely coiffured hair is talking to her family again.

Since then, Technocademy has grown considerably. I have worked with over 390 senior citizens since that first class and am now working on a nationwide project. We have expanded across the Atlanta community, fueled by motivated volunteers from my school’s Beta and Key Club.

That day I realized: when I see an opportunity to help, even for just one person, it will benefit me and others if I approach the task with an open heart.

Josh Seides is a junior at Alpharetta High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Aside from writing, he also composes poetry, some of which has been published in national magazines. He loves to play tennis and work on furthering his nonprofit organization Technocademy, Inc. You can learn more at www.technocademy.org/

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