In its first year, the SeniorNet Computer Learning Program in Carson City has graduated 150 students, most all of whom had never touched a computer before in their lives.
The only program of its kind in Northern Nevada, it was organized through Nevada Rural Housing Authority. The program teaches senior citizens the basic functions and programs of a computer including e-mail, file management, Microsoft Word, paint program and some spread sheets.
"I had absolutely no experience on a computer," said 81-year-old Jean Reynolds of Carson City. "I was a little skeptical too at first.
"Now I've got something I'd rather do than stare at four walls and a TV."
Reynolds has used her newfound knowledge to become a computer artist. She is proficient in use of the Corel Paint Classic program and paints everything from insects to animals to people.
"You name it, I draw it. A bee, butterfly, a lake scene and a woman's profile. And I've e-mailed all of my drawings to my relatives. It's a lot of fun."
Carol Short, staff service coordinator for the housing authority and coordinator of the SeniorNet program, is very pleased with the results.
"We're now helping Reno get this program started," Short said.
"The Volunteers of America, who are in charge of Sierra Manor in Reno, a similar housing project to Southgate Apartments, want to get this program going. They came in Tuesday to oversee how we operate and asked us to help them. We're also going to get Yerington in the program after the first of the year."
Short said each class is held two days a week, two hours per day, for a total of four weeks. The class costs $60 per person. Scholarships are also available.
"If the person qualifies, they can get a grant and take the course. Once the people complete the course, they have a fairly good knowledge of how to use a computer. The fee includes a one-year membership in SeniorNet and a free Hotmail account."
SBC Nevada Bell recently awarded a $20,000 grant to housing authority for the computer learning program, which will help supply some of the scholarships and purchase software.
Betty Heglie, 78, was a student in the first class held. Though she had worked on a computer before, it was on company-prepared programs.
"With five grandchildren and all these great-grandchildren, I had to learn," Heglie said with a laugh.
"I got a lot out of the class. Oh, but I flunked painting. I have learned more about scanning. I use the class to reinforce my knowledge and go quicker.
"This program is wonderful, and I'm working on an on-call basis as a volunteer. I wouldn't be without a computer now."
Barbara Haller, 65, is in the current class. She said she's learned just about everything and gives high praises to the instructors and coaches of the program.
"They are just wonderful teachers," said Haller. "I've learned a lot and it's a wonderful class. I love it. It's fun.
"I had been afraid to get on a computer. Now, it's easy. I still have two more classes to complete before I get my e-mail, though."
IF YOU GO
What: SeniorNet Computer Learning Program
What: Sign-ups on-going
Where: Nevada Rural Housing Authority, 2100 California St.
Information: Carol Short, 887-1795, ext. 232