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Teenage Volunteers Teach Technology To Senior Citizens

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) Ying Ying laughed, gesturing at her iPad.

"My daughter's boyfriend gave it to me, you know why!"

In truth, she already liked the young man. And when it came to Ying Ying learning how to use the iPad, the kids gave it a shot.

"They did (it) really quick," she recalled. "They said 'Oh, just like this and that!' So my, oh no! You know, come on, I couldn't get it!"

But thanks to "Teach Seniors Technology," Ying Ying is sending email and creating some amazing artwork.

"It's really enjoyable to see like, they want it and that their passion to learn is so strong," volunteer Michelle Zhang said of the senior citizens in the class.

High school senior Stuti Vishwabhan launched the nonprofit in the South Bay three years ago after her grandmother visited from India and didn't quite get the game Vishwabhan was playing.

"Growing up in the Silicon Valley, I'm so used to technology being around me," Vishwabhan explained. "So seeing my grandma not in tune with that same pace of technology.. it kind of inspired me to teach her."

Vishwabhan started with the basics, like how to turn the computer on, then email, then Facebook.

"I thought that if I could stay in touch with my grandma, then other students, other kids, can stay in touch with their grandparents too," she remarked.

Vishwabhan recruited classmates as volunteer teachers for Teach Seniors Technology and began free classes at the Almaden Branch of the San Jose Library. Now the program has expanded to a dozen South Bay libraries, senior and community centers. There are more than 50 volunteers from 14 high schools and two middles schools, and chapters have formed in India, China, Singapore, and soon, Australia.

"I sometimes feel like I'm dreaming," Vishwabhan said. "I never thought it would grow this much."

Connie Larrew has been coming to classes for six months, after she felt left out at her crafts class.

"The ladies would come and they would say, 'Oh I found this craft on Pinterest. I found this craft on Etsy.' And I would just sit there and think, 'Oooh I wish I could do that!" Larrew explained.

Now, she can, just as Vishwabhan and her grandmother in India can use Skype to stay in touch.

"I can look at her face and still have that connection with her and that's what it's all about, Vishwabhan said.

So for helping take the mystery out of high tech for seniors, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Stuti Vishwabhan.

Teach Seniors Technology is always looking for volunteers and lightly used iPads, laptops, and computers. To get involved or make a donation, use this link.

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