October 8, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Inside the computer room at Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library the students listened intently as their young teachers helped them connect to the World Wide Web.

The teachers, primarily high school students, are part of a program called Cyber Seniors/Cyber Teens.  The program is a partnership among the National Retired Teachers' Association, the National 4-H Organization's Youth Technology Corps, and CyberSeniors.org and is designed to provide seniors access to and training about how to use the Internet's information and communication resources.

Youth and adult teams from Hopkins, Taylor and Wayne Counties spent two days on the University of Kentucky campus this summer receiving the training to provide the program in their home counties. Hopkins is the first county to conduct the program and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement it.

Carey Renfro, a health educator with the Hopkins County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, is the lead teacher. At a recent class, she was assisted by high school students Danny McGregor, Ben Wells and Matt Mills who participated in the two-day training at UK.

“There are two books,” she said. “One is on very, very basic computer skills and one is on the Internet and e-mail. The biggest challenge is that it is so easy to do it, but it’s so hard to explain how to do it.  Plus, I am learning some things.”

“We thought it would be beneficial,” she said. “We have a lot of seniors in Madisonville.”

There’s already a waiting list for another class that will start in January. To participate, a person must be at least 55-years-old.

Class member Fayetta Gooch said she saw information about the class in the newspaper.

“My granddaughter is in the eighth grade and sometimes needs help with her lessons, but she is really pretty computer savvy and I felt stupid when I was in there with her. I thought if she can do it, surely I could do some,” she said. “Plus, it said for senior citizens and I didn’t feel afraid and I didn’t feel intimidated. I’ve taken classes over at the college and the people next to me were going so fast, I thought I can’t do this.”

High school student Danny McGregor said teaching the class was fun but also was a challenge.

“It forced me to have to talk in front of people so now it’s easier for me to do that in school,” he said.

Danny Wells said the class members are fun to be around. “There’s one lady here who is really outspoken,” he said.

Matt Mills, another of the young teachers, said he became interested in helping because it is important for seniors to learn to use the technology.

“It’s good for them to learn how to do this,” he said. “Instead of sending a letter, they can send an e-mail and it doesn’t cost a thing. It just makes it a lot easier.”

Mills said the seniors are pretty quick learners.

“The main reason we wanted do the program was because our little 4-year-old grandkid showed us how,” said Sherrill Calhoun. “We knew a little bit about computers but I’ve learned quite a bit.”

Calhoun and his wife, Jeannie, said they’ve enjoyed the class.

“Our kids always said just get on there and play, but I was afraid I’d do something wrong,” Jeannie Calhoun said. “This has made us more comfortable.”



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Carey Renfro, 270-821-3650