SIKESTON -- Senior citizens itching to learn about computers -- from checking e-mail to surfing the Internet to working a mouse -- will have the opportunity through a computer lab offered by Sikeston Career and Technology Center over the next couple months.
Beginning Jan. 27 through March 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, an open-entry computer lab will be available to anyone who is 55 years or older at no cost.
But there is one catch: their tutors are Sikeston Public Schools students who are members of the A-Plus Program or the Service Learning Program.
Mignonne Flagg, SPS A-Plus/Service Learning coordinator, said the idea for the computer course for senior citizens came about after John Wesemann Sikeston Career and Technology Center supervisor of adult education, approached her.
"He told me about an article he read in an education magazine where a school had a lot of success with tutoring senior citizens about using a computer," Flagg recalled. "So we thought we'd try it with our students."
One of the requirements for students in the A-Plus Program is they must perform 50 hours of unpaid tutoring or mentoring of younger students.
"I called the director of the A-Plus Program to see if the tutoring would count with the senior citizens and he said it would," Flagg explained.
For students who aren't eligible for the A-Plus program, SPS created Service Learning Program, which gives other students an opportunity to volunteer to the community. These students will also volunteer at the computer lab, Flagg said.
"It benefits our students by working with people and it benefits our community by helping them learn," Flagg noted.
Students will assist the seniors in using a mouse, common computer tasks, using e-mail, surfing the Internet, word processing and other topics requested.
Since the Adult and Community Education is a community service business, Wesemann admitted they're glad to give everybody a winning opportunity.
"Basically, we're hiring students and paying them with tutoring hours," Wesemann said. "It's a win-win situation for everybody. It's a win for us, a win for the students and a win for the community."
A-Plus student Stephanie Winkler, a senior at Sikeston Senior High School, admitted she's use to working with 4- and 5-year-olds, but thinks she can handle the adults just fine. "I think it's good to have this," said Winkler, who plans to volunteer at the lab. "My grandparents didn't know how to use a computer so I think there's a lot of people out there who can use this. I think it will be pretty neat."
Flagg said often times grandparents want to e-mail their grandchildren or children or view a picture online, but simply can't because they don't know the technology. They've never had the chance to learn, she said. Until now.
"They're exactly who the program is for," Flagg said. "These teenagers are going to teach someone's grandparent, and I think it's great. What fun it would be if they could really learn how to e-mail."
Senior citizens shouldn't worry if they have no computer knowledge -- that's what the tutors are for, Flagg said.
"And once you learn a little, you can learn a little more on your own," Flagg said.
As of Tuesday, six students were officially signed up to tutor in the computer lab, but Flagg expects more. Flagg hopes to have at least three students and one certified teacher each lab session.
Enrollment is limited so senior citizens should call the Sikeston Career and Technology Center to reserve a spot in the lab, she said. The computer lab for seniors is being held in the A-Plus Computer Lab located in C Building on the campus of Sikeston Senior High School.
"Anytime something is good for both sides, you can't go wrong," Flagg said. "In this case, both the person being tutored and the tutors come away feeling rewarded."
To register for the computer lab for seniors, contact the Adult and Community Education Office at the Sikeston Career and Technology Center at (573) 471-5442.