Reach out and surf with someone

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The rap on the Internet has been the lack of access to it for those who, well, don't have access - either for financial or knowhow reasons. On a brisk day last November, another bridge across this digital divide was erected when volunteer high school students began teaching seniors at Kit Clark Senior Services how to surf the Web and set up e-mail accounts. It was a festive atmosphere, complete with juice and cookies. Age as well as technological barriers melted and senior fingers limbered up on spanking new keyboards.

Representatives from the companies and foundations whose donations wired the private nonprofit agency, looked on as e-mail passwords were chosen and Web searches initiated.

Another rap on the Internet is that it isolates people from each other, limiting direct human contact. The interaction between the teaching students and the learning seniors was warm, so in an odd way, the Internet brought lives into direct contact.

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Taking hands-on learning to the literal degree, first-time computer user Marian Jones allowed Dorchester High School junior Truc Nguyen to guide her hand on a mouse (below). Another senior, Mary Lockhart summed up her first foray on the Web by saying, "It was fun."

Aside from wanting to connect with distant grandchildren, for seniors in the job market, computer skills are needed for the higher paying part-time jobs, points out Sandy Albright, executive director at Kit Clark.

On a recent follow-up visit to Kit Clark Senior Services to assess how the instruction had played out, Garbriel Tuffo is exulting over just receiving the first e-mail from his daughter: "I couldn't have done it without these girls!" he says, gesturing to high-schoolers Lan Nguyen and Vy Nguyen, seated to his right and left. "At first, I didn't know how to turn on the computer. They took me through step by step." He points at the screen with his daughter's e-mail glowing on it. "This is e-mail," he explains, a smile spreading on his face. "Instant chatting is the next level."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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