A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Plugged In: Bryan Station students volunteer to help retirees better understand new technology


By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

While teens can sometimes take for granted the technology that infuses their world, students in Bryan Station High School’s IT Academy realize that not everyone is as plugged in.

That’s why they volunteer regularly at the Lexington Senior Center, where retirees welcome their help.

“For us in this generation, it’s second nature, but they’re still struggling,” said senior Kyra “Mack” Cason.

On a recent visit, Mack helped a couple update their devices’ software, access the iCloud, and use new apps like “find my phone.” In fact, the woman had driven all the way home to retrieve her cellphone only to discover it was in her tote bag at the senior center all along.

“I feel so lost with my smartphone and need help with it, so this is a fantastic idea,” said retiree Evadean Hoskins, who taught at the former Leestown Junior High. “I’ll be back with more questions!” (Photo Provided)

“I feel so lost with my smartphone and need help with it, so this is a fantastic idea,” said retiree Evadean Hoskins, who taught at the former Leestown Junior High. “I’ll be back with more questions!” (Photo Provided)

“Patience is key, but it’s fun,” Mack said of the tech-support sessions. “They want to learn and adapt to what we do every day.”

As people dropped in, the students popped up to offer assistance. Among the problems solved were how to forward a video by phone, remove a PIN lock, and unfriend on Facebook. They also explained the pros and cons of laptops, tablets, iPods, and other devices.

“I feel so lost with my smartphone and need help with it, so this is a fantastic idea,” said retiree Evadean Hoskins, who taught at the former Leestown Junior High. “I’ll be back with more questions!”

Mack’s classmate Yajeidy Gonzalez also appreciated the chance to befriend older residents and to ensure they can stay up to date with the latest news, weather, and family doings. “It’ll help them be more connected to the world and with their grandchildren,” she said.

The outreach project is part of the Academy of Information Technology’s 10th anniversary lineup.

“We really want part of our celebration to be about us as an academy giving back to the community,” said Heather Zoll-Eppley, who is in her sixth year as director.

Other events included a business social for community partners at host Transylvania University, an ice cream social at Bryan Station for the entire IT Academy, and distribution of new T-shirts that unify the IT students. The academy also recently rolled out a new website and refreshed its marketing materials.

Zoll-Eppley has seen major advancements in the program, which now involves about 170 students in grades 9 through 12.

“That’s a far cry from the 25 we started with 10 years ago,” she noted. “We’ve grown in numbers and in terms of recruiting students and letting them know what we have to offer. We’ve also grown in our business support and our work-based learning opportunities. The internships, job-shadowing, and guest speakers have made a huge difference in how the kids see life beyond high school.”

The IT Academy’s advisory board – which is made up of FCPS tech employees, students’ parents, and local supporters from technology, banking, and other fields – guides the efforts.

“It’s important for the students to have that community connection and really understand what their potential is. With the IT Academy, it gives them a broader opportunity to see that. The board is intentional about seeking opportunities for them to go out into the community and use their skills,” said chairwoman and Bryan Station alumna Tari Young, a firmware development manager at Lexmark. “Having those connections with people outside the school has been key to our success.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools


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