Most teenagers are happy to spend their summer vacations catching up on some Zzz’s and finding ways to avoid taking on new responsibilities. But at Mobile Loaves & Fishes LIFT Program, we’ve been blessed with one very enthusiastic high school junior named Nate who has chosen to spend his summer working with homeless folks to teach them computer literacy. As Dave Sekel, program director for LIFT said, “During our pilot for the LIFT program we realized that there was just as much a need out there for technical and math literacy assistance as there is for reading.”
Nate acquired most of his technical knowledge from his dad, and from jumping in with both feet and learning on his own. He hopes to study computer science and go into video game design as a career, but for now Nate attends St. Andrews and volunteers during the summer months.
On his first day ‘on the job’ at LIFT, Nate assisted one homeless gentleman troubleshoot a computer tablet which wasn’t functioning properly. Then he helped another homeless friend register for email, set up a Facebook account, and contact a long-lost relative. In his short time volunteering, Nate has seen a pretty wide range of skills from the homeless individuals he’s encountered. Some of them are pretty tech-savvy, while others can barely operate a computer and have no idea how to even check their own email. He says his goal is to just help people who come to him for help, whatever their needs may be. He and Dave Sekel are also working on a plan to do some formal training on the Microsoft Office suite of products–especially Word and Excel–and offer the training to some of the homeless folks that work at the ROADS program. They hope to aid these folks as they build marketable skills that can help them secure employment.
I asked Nate what makes him spend his summers volunteering and he said, “Did you ever read the Illiad? It’s like Achilles Choice. Achilles could either stay home, or go to Troy and be remembered forever. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and if that happens I may be remembered if I do this work with people. It makes you bigger than yourself.”
When asked him how he feels about working in such a messy environment like the ROADS/Rework workshop, surrounded by stacks of tools, lumber and sawdust, he laughed and said, ”You should see what my room looks like!”