A Bay Area native, Derek has spent a majority of his life in work that involves the internet. Among his many experiences, Derek was previously involved in public policy with Google Fiber. In Derek’s research in various new Google digital inclusion programs, CTN continued appearing. He was also able to connect with Executive Director Kami Griffiths at a San Francisco broadband event. Now Derek can be found every Friday at Rosa Parks Center, where he has been assisting learners for the past two years. He says, “My head is always in the policy space, but I came to CTN thinking, ‘How does this happen on a practical level with a community that I honestly didn’t know much about?'”
In his time at the computer lab, Derek reflects, “There are the regulars who need a little help, and then some individuals who are coming in with specific needs. A learner named Tim began coming in to find a job and sell some of his old memorabilia. What is great is I haven’t seen him in a while because he did land a job! It felt impactful. He wasn’t necessarily coming to learn digital skills, more that he needed help finding a job. To provide that support, some of this is involved with being a technology trainer, and some of this is just helping someone complete a task.”
In addition to forming connections with various learners and community members in the lab, Derek has been able to observe the challenges that individuals face in using technology. He realizes what a game changer mobile devices have been due to their touch screens. While the interface of a keyboard or a mouse is completely natural to Derek himself, he realizes that these things are not intuitive to many learners. Derek explains that a large portion of his time in volunteering is about human connection, rather than applying his technical skills. “Seniors, they’re just like us! They want to get on YouTube or connect with their friends and family. A majority of learners need help in the moment, and volunteers can provide them confidence. If something goes wrong, learners aren’t stuck.”
It is dedicated volunteers like Derek who help CTN bridge the digital divide and ensure access to technology for community members. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!