Opening the Door to a New World

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Sometimes, you walk through a door and think you know what’s on the other side. For recent Bastrop area resident Linda Farrell, crossing the Bastrop Public Library threshold and starting computer training classes has opened new worlds of job opportunities, useful information, and reconnections with old friends.

“I couldn’t turn one on,” Farrell said, talking about her previous experience with computers. “I was more than intimidated,” and “there was no one I could talk to.” Her sister-in-law told her about classes that had recently started at the library.

Through an agreement with the Texas non-profit Technology For All (TFA), the Bastrop library received new computers in 2011. In addition to hardware and software, the partnership provides computer proficiency training with an emphasis on job preparedness, using standard programs, and information learning. The computers and training are funded by a federal grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. TFA is part of the Texas Connects Coalition, a group of Texas high tech non-profits active in 70 Texas locations.

With the starting points of a keyboard, monitor and computer mouse, class instructor Laura McBain worked with Ferrell and other students on their introduction to computing. Ferrell credits McBain’s “patience and understanding” with making the classes a success. McBain’s people skills were honed through years of teaching in area public schools. She also holds a master of education in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University.

Ferrell said the proficiency classes “have helped out so much. Oh, the knowledge I’ve gained. I have an email account now, I know where things are, I learned how to find things and get information.”
One part of training particularly important to Ferrell is searching for a job. In her previous four decades of work experience, paper job applications were sufficient. “Now, everything’s online.” With what she’s learned, “I have a lot more confidence. I’m not afraid to do a job application. “ On the day of this interview, she had finished an application and was ready to deliver it to a potential employer. She was also including a work resume with the application. Again, she had never needed a resume before this latest round of job searching. She has also completed job applications on store kiosks, a task she could not do prior to this training.

Ferrell said the classroom instruction has also made her less frustrated when using a computer. “When I do a search, I stay calm,” leading her to find information on healthier eating choices, recipes for leftover turkey, and using email and Facebook to find and communicate with friends. This “might not seem like much, but it means quite a bit to me.” While her next computer upgrade will have to wait until she gets a full time job, she is confident she will get a notebook computer. “I wouldn’t have thought about that before.”

Proficiency classes are held each Tuesday and Thursday at the Bastrop Public Library. For more information on these classes and other library events, please visit the library’s homepage at www.bastroplibrary.org. A map of the Texas Connects Coalition sites is available at www.txc2.org.

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