2012 Spirit of Volunteerism Award Nominee – Ray Vaughn
Activity: Organization and leadership of SeniorNet Computer Learning Center
Volunteer, Ray Vaughn has made a personal commitment to helping older adults in the Sioux Empire region learn computers and stay up-to-date on the latest technology. He understands how important technology is to help seniors stay “connected” to their families as well as their communities.
For the last five years, Ray has volunteered for Active Generations – SeniorNet Computer Learning Center. He began as a computer “coach” where he sat behind students to assist them through classes. The SeniorNet philosophy is “older adults teaching older adults”. The environment is non-threatening and class sizes are small ensuring students get a positive experience and lots of assistance as they navigate new concepts and new technology. After joining the volunteer team, Ray quickly began one of the favorite coaches for both instructors and students alike. His patience and knowledge of the programs help students feel comfortable and he soon helps them master each skill as they proceed through the lessons.
In 2007, Ray was asked to serve on the Learning Center Advisory Board. This group of volunteers helps decide learning center curriculum, software and hardware issue and class policy. His input and assistance was greatly appreciated. When the Learning Center’s educational coordinator fell ill, Ray stepped in on his own to take over most of her responsibilities. He was “officially” named Educational Coordinator in 2009. In this position, Ray is responsible for all the Learning Center curriculum and downloading a preparing manuals for each class. He is the “go-between” for the Sioux Falls Computer Learning Center and the National SeniorNet organization in knowing what manuals and software is available for our local team to use. Ray also prepares the classroom for each class ensuring materials are ready for the instructor and classes, equipment is ready and working and student nametags are made.
In the past year Ray has also stepped up to learn more of the classroom maintenance issues. He now knows how to deactivate our Rollback system, downloads the periodic updates needed on all the machines, takes care of virus protection and applications.
Need: Educating older adults in computers and technology.
In 1986 Dr. Mary Furlong founded the SeniorNet organization when she realized that the senior population had a great deal of talent and experience to bring to the table. Her goal was to use technology to create a sense of community for older adults where they could share what they were learning to enhance their lives and the lives of others.
Fast forward 25 years and today, SeniorNet is the nation’s premier provider of computer education to those in need (seniors and underserved.) Today the organization boasts over 200 learning centers, 8,000 members and 3,100 volunteers. People from across the country and in under-served communities such as five Native American Reservations have benefited from SeniorNet’s mission – enable them to share and enjoy a world of wisdom through computers.
Older adults that use computers benefit in so many ways. Number one is the sense of connectedness. They are able to connect with family, old friends and make new friends from across the world with hobby and travel forums.
Computers enable older adults to keep their minds stimulated. As one woman said “you never, ever come to the end of it. You will always have the excitement of discovery. That’s the wonderful thing about it.”
Computers allow older adults to “re-engage” into the work force. Active Generations’ computer learning center partners with the BRIDGES Employment Resource Center and offers Microsoft Office programs Word, Excel and Publisher programs for adults to stay current and be more employable.
Without Ray’s assistance, leadership and volunteer hours our learning center would not be the success that it is and our students would not get such a positive experience.
Impact: Connecting and keeping older adults engaged with family and friends.
Active Generations’ Computer Learning Center has taught more than 5,400 older adults from the Sioux Empire region in the last 15 years.
The students say it best: “I have taken several computer classes. I thought the classes were great! The instructors are patient, knowledgeable and will take the time to make sure everyone understands. The smaller class is an advantage and you don’t feel too dumb to learn.” Nancy Lange
“I loved the Skype class – I’m so excited to be able to use this new tool to keep in touch with my family far away!”
“I have taken 3 – 5 different classes at Active Generations. They have provided a comfort level to me on various things I have learned. Of particular enjoyment were the 2 classes on Picasa. Intro to Windows 7 and Exploring Windows 7 provided me with much needed information that saved me a lot of time learning the system!”
While the computer learning center program has and is impacting thousands of older adults. Ray himself is impacting individuals on a personal level. The students find his patience and kindness assuring during classes his fellow “teammates and volunteers” find his commitment to this program indispensable. Outgoing Learning Center Coordinator, Susan Niemeck had this to say. “Ray is the glue keeping the SeniorNet program together. He always makes sure we have manuals ready for instructors, coaches and students. He does routine maintenance on all of the machines, deactivates Rollback, downloaded operation systems, virus protection, and applications. When he coaches, he makes valuable suggestions to the instructors to help keep the class running smoothly. He has reminded me (instructor) that our computers are set up in ways that are different from my own, that certain instructions in the manual won’t work due to Ro9llback. Or that I needed to elaborate on a point because what I said left questions in the student’s minds. He is such an asset to each and every class in our learning center.”
“Whenever we need that extra coach, Ray is always there to help. The computer classroom could not function as well as it does without Ray!” Alice Lance, fellow volunteer.
Challenges: Every changing technology!
Some of the challenges faced by the Sioux Falls SeniorNet Learning Center has been the every-changing and swift-changing technology. While many seniors are given their children’s hand-me-down computers which may be an XP or Millennium computer – our learning center tries to stay on top of the latest technology and teach Window’s 7. Meeting the needs of a student base that has many different types of computer operating systems in a great challenge to stay on top of. Our group of volunteers with Ray leading the charge has made great strides in offering 1:1 personal computer tutoring to individuals with “older” computers. Ray is instrumental in keeping all the teaching materials for these many different operating systems organized and current to help our instructors and students get the most out of their learning experience.
Other: Why does he deserve this award?
For the past nine years Ray has made a tremendous impact in the lives of hundreds of older adults. He has given over 1,900 volunteer hours to ensure that our computer learning center is running smoothly and that our students have a positive and fun experience learning the latest technology. His unselfish spirit and un-endless energy has inspired other individuals to get involved as volunteers. Without his commitment our learning center would not be the success that is it.
We are proud to nominate Ray Vaughn for the 2012 Spirit of Volunteerism Award and feel he would be a worthy recipient of this prestigious award.