Photo caption: Amy Mitchell, program participant, leads a support group in Centre County for grandparents raising grandchildren

What do Paul P. Harris (Rotary founder), Amy (grandparent), Phoebe (PSU tutor), a deviled egg sandwich (lunch provided for tutor), Chrome Books, and Bellefonte all have in common? Frankly a four-letter word we all need to hang onto, HOPE – hope given to grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren in Centre County.

A generous grant by the State College Rotary Club was the spark. With this funding, Mid-State Literacy Council began its Literacy for Life Initiative to train these grandparents in the technical skills needed to communicate with schools and help their grandchildren learn in a digital world.

Amy Mitchell, who leads a support group in Centre County for grandparents in a caretaker role, can attest to this need. “When we raised our children – our grandchildren’s parents – technology was not at the forefront like it is now. There are so many different technologies that the children use that the older people need to learn about, one being the school systems. The school systems use specific programs to communicate with parents and guardians…”

Months of investigation, planning, collaboration, phone calls, letters, texts, advertisements, and hard work equipped Mid-State with eight brand new laptops, laptop cases and books – hundreds of books, ranging from Dr. Seuss to Computers For Seniors, to emphasize the connection between reading and learning, and encourage a lifelong habit for children and grandparents alike.

We launched our grandparents training in four locations – Bellefonte Senior Resource Center, Centre Hall Senior Center at Centre Hall Fire Hall, Holt Memorial Library in Philipsburg, and Centre Region Active Adult Center in State College, Monday through Thursday for five consecutive weeks in February and March. Our five weeks of lessons encompassed a full range of topics:

Week 1: Computer Skills – Basics
Week 2: Beyond the Basics: Computer Skills & Browsers
Week 3: Navigating School-specific systems and apps
Week 4: Best Practices for helping your grandchild in school
Week 5: Phone Scams and Financial Woes

With our beloved, capably trained team of PSU and local volunteers, willing participants and dedicated site managers we managed to give our grandparents these computer lessons and the opportunity to grow in technology using Power Points, teaching tips, handouts, answers to specific needs, and a willingness to believe they could help their grandchildren wade through the technology brought home nightly in their bookbags.

PSECU pitched in to offer the 5th workshop on phishing and scams. We were so grateful to them and plan to continue the collaboration in the fall.

The concerns of our grandparents were varied and believable. Their sincere engagement and appreciation were voiced weekly.

“We had participants who needed to go over very basic things on the computer and the folks at Mid-State were wonderful working with people that needed the basics. They just were very welcoming and open to helping all of us,” said Amy Mitchell, who had a chance to attend herself.

The takeaway for us was we need to start planning the next sessions because our launch of this new initiative was truly appreciated, and the grandparents want more! We have three grandmothers that want to continue with tutors. Mid-State will continue to offer the workshops to meet the growing need in our area.

We live in a very fast paced world that in recent weeks has screeched to a halt. I believe with our short course in technology we have tossed a life ring to our Centre County families that will keep their boat afloat now and well into the future.

Article by Karen Loerch Literacy Coordinator

Mid-State Literacy Council depends on the support of our community.