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Computer tutor: Log On and Learn program builds success stories

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, August 19, 2012

— Unemployed and looking for change, Melisa Gasser decided to return to school in hopes of starting a new career.

Unfortunately Gasser, 44, didn't know much about computers, which have become vital tools for both students and job seekers.

Gasser enrolled in The Literacy's Connection's computer lab. The Beloit woman found the "Log On and Learn" curriculum to be perfect for her.

"I like the one-on-one (tutoring)," she said. "It's easy to understand and more personal."

Gasser also noted how helpful it was that her instruction was free, and that it was offered at a convenient location—the Rock County Job Center.

Tuesday, volunteer tutor Evon Mitchell was teaching Gasser how to store documents in electronic file folders and how to attach them to an email.

"She's been doing really well," Mitchell said.

Gasser isn't alone in her achievements. Gene Phillips, 58, of Beloit shared the successes he experienced after completing 12 weeks of classroom instruction earlier this year.

"I gained a lot of confidence out of the course," he said.

Phillips also landed a job, albeit temporary, after learning how to search and apply for work online. He said getting that job was a big moral booster after he was laid off indefinitely from the quality control inspector position he held for 38 years.

Phillips praised tutor Bill Rankin, who also coordinates the "Log On and Learn" program.

"He didn't just answer my questions, he showed me how to do things on the computer and how to go about it comfortably," Phillips said. "Bill was real patient with me."

Since the local literacy council opened the ongoing computer lab last October, it has helped 67 students. Fifteen people are on a waiting list that, at one time, held as many as 20, Rankin said.

"We could add more than the maximum of 10 students if we had enough volunteers," said Cathy Jennings, executive director of the Literacy Connection.

In the beginning, many people seeking to enroll in the program were senior citizens who hadn't had exposure to computers, Rankin said. Many of those people were older than 65 and interested in looking for jobs, and they wanted to know how to submit application online.

Some other students in the program had already taken a computer class in a group setting, but got lost, confused or frustrated, Rankin said.

"Our role is to reassure," he said. "Each student is different and works at a different pace. We fill that slot."

Last updated: 5:07 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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