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Tech-savvy Algonquin students use their skills to help Northborough senior citizens

(l to r) Technology Afternoons participant Lisa with Algonquin Regional High School freshman Bradi Mullens, Kelly Burke, director of Northborough Senior Center, and Algonquin senior Danielle DellaPenna

Photo/Jane Keller Gordon

 

By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer

Northborough – Senior citizens who have questions about their iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs can find answers at Technology Afternoons, held from 2:15 to 4 p.m., two Thursdays a month at the Northborough Senior Center. Eileen Parker, Algonquin Regional High School math teacher, leads the school’s Community Action Program (CAP), which provides student volunteers for a variety of activities, including Technology Afternoons.

According to Palmer, “[CAP] consists of 35 [Algonquin] teens who are dedicated to giving back in the community. These students currently support the Northborough and Southborough senior centers, the Southborough Youth & Family Services, the Coleman House (in Northborough), and other community organizations.”

Palmer said that she recruits students, and advises them how to behave respectfully when volunteering. In her classroom, she keeps a large calendar listing upcoming service opportunities.

Currently there are 10 students who participate in Technology Afternoons. About their qualifications, Palmer said, “… Let’s face it. Teenagers are super savvy when it comes to technology. They have been using computers since elementary school and cell phones are really important to them!”

On a recent Thursday, Algonquin senior Danielle DellaPenna, 18, counseled Lisa, who was struggling to decide whether to replace her “Windows” cellphone with an iPhone, given to her by her son’s girlfriend.

“Windows allows me to do very safe text to speech while I am driving. With the iPhone, I’ll have to deal with Siri, and look at the phone while I’m driving,” Lisa said. “I’m going to tell my son that I’m not too old to learn about it, but I’m not changing phones.”

DellaPenna tried to sell Lisa on the benefit of apps with the iPhone, to no avail.

She said, “I’ve been doing [Technology Afternoons] since last year because community service is important to me.”

That sentiment was shared by Algonquin freshman Bradi Mullens. Both students said that they often help seniors set up email accounts on cellphones, and download music into iTunes.

Palmer added that the students deal with cellphone ring tones, cellphone pictures, texting, iPad usage, Kindle usage, and a lot of Word and Excel documents.

“One senior citizen had an [Algonquin] student help prepare all their labels for their Christmas cards this December,” she said. “Anything goes in this program!”

Kelly Burke, director of the Northborough Senior Center said, “It’s been phenomenal to work with all these students who are great experts, having grown up using technology. Our seniors sometimes need help, and we knew that we were going to the right place to find knowledgeable, willing helpers.”

Palmer echoed Burke’s sentiment, “The Algonquin students have a lot of energy, and good hearts. They embrace these CAP service projects.”

For more information and the schedule for Technology Afternoons, contact Kelly Burke at 508-393-5035 or Kburke@town.northborough.ma.us. Palmer can be reached at Epalmer@nsboro.k12.ma.us.

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