In late July, 2010, Sally Bell became a SCSEP participant and Digital Inclusion Initiative (DII) learner working with peer coach Patrick Carew in Eau Claire, Wis.
At 55, Sally was starting over in many ways.
Sally’s 30-year marriage had ended about eight years earlier. Both during and after the marriage, she had worked full-time in retail sales for about a decade. But after Sally’s hours were cut in January 2009 and she couldn’t find more hours elsewhere, she ran out of money and moved to Eau Claire to stay with family.
SCSEP is a godsend for me, just wonderful, says Sally.
SCSEP is many things—it’s an aging program, it’s a community enrichment program, and it’s a job training and work program. DII too exemplifies the multiple missions of SCSEP and its participants’ varying abilities and needs.
In the case of Sally Bell, right now it’s all about supporting herself.
At Senior Citizens Employment and Training, Inc., our SCSEP subgrantee partner in Eau Claire, Wis., one of the
the first questions I was asked was what computer skills I had, Sally recalls. In fact, they were already quite good: Sally’s daughter, who is deaf, began learning the computer at age three—at five she began teaching the computer to Sally.
So, unlike many DII learners, Sally already knew how to get online with a browser, search websites and send and receive emails. She also had her own computer.
But I didn’t know how to create documents, and my typing skills aren’t very good, she says.
Sally quickly graduated from the DII program before beginning her first SCSEP host agency assignment—answering phones at an independent living center assisting people with handicaps. As she performs her community service, she also puts in time alongside DII learners, working on her skill set by using an online tutorial to improve her typing and being coached by Patrick in creating documents.
Patrick is there to offer assistance, she says.
He makes me play with the programs. He says he’s not there to tell me what to do, but to help me learn.
Sally knows that being able to create documents and use other computer programs such as spread sheets are key to getting a good full-time job that she can do in an office or at home. She’s already been able to create documents and write a few job application cover letters.
“I used to think office stuff was wow, how boring can you get, but I’m having such fun learning it—and it’s going to create many more job opportunities for me. I’d like to move on as soon as possible from SCSEP to a full-time position outside the program.
“I’ve even already tried for dietary aide and office assistant jobs. I would never have applied for an office job before, because my computer skills weren’t great, but now I’m at the point where I could learn on the job.”
To prepare herself for that opportunity, Sally signed up for free classes at a local middle school—she’s going to learn Excel, a spread sheet program, and Powerpoint, which creates online presentations.
Many more doors open for you if you know computers and all the things available on them to learn, she says.
I feel so much better about myself than when I had to move to Eau Claire and felt utterly hopeless about getting a job. As soon as I got there, people at SCSEP and DII gave me such hope. My mental and physical health has improved, and I am confident again.