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Teens learn, earn systems

A pioneer in electrical engineering would probably appreciate the fact that efforts to bridge the digital divide faced by families who cannot afford home computers or Internet access occur in a school bearing his name.

A second-floor classroom in the former Steinmetz School, on Oakwood Avenue, has become a technology learning center for county teens enrolled in the Schenectady Inner City Mini-stry's Computers for Kids program.

It is a technology literacy program with a twist. Like most, students learn about operating systems and common appli-cations such Microsoft(r) Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Although they learn about computers using state-of-the-art technology, the students learn how to repair and add hardware while rebuilding older Pentium(r) III machines donated by the GE Elfun society.

The twist is that the teens get to keep the computers they fix, a tangible source of pride to outwardly manifest their sense of achievement from completing the course.

With the rebuilt computers, students are able to practice their newfound tech skills at home, which program members hope will improve academic performance and employment prospects.

The program gives these kids some basic computer skills, Program Coordinator Charlie Lent said. "Almost every job requires basic computer skills, and we want to give these kids the kind of skills they can use in the work force."

Lent, a SUNY Oneonta education major interning with SICM, said she and instructor Elroy Tatem began teaching the 14- and 15-year-olds in the class how computers work and how to take one apart earlier this month. Tatem recently graduated from Union College with a degree in computer science.

SICM Executive Director Rev. Phillip Grigsby credits the Troy Area United Ministries for creating the concept about four years ago.

"More and more stuff is technological, and people are being left out," Grigsby said, explaining the need for programs such as Computers for Kids. "We teach software and hardware skills."

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