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Our Elderly Residents

Computer literacy class inspires at Riverview Apartments

Computer literacy class inspires at Riverview Apartments

Santos Torres signed up for computer classes at Springfield Housing Authority’s Riverview Apartments and managed an impressive feat – he has learned how to read.

And now, the 60-year-old retiree can’t seem to get enough of the printed word, tearing through newspapers, magazines and books as if to make up for lost time.

“Today, I read everything I can,” said Torres. “I like books, anything. I just got a flier in my apartment about the air conditioners and I was happy to read the whole thing.”

Riverview Apartments resident Santos Torres taught himself to read while attending SHA computer classes.

Riverview Apartments resident Santos Torres taught himself to read while attending SHA computer classes.

Torres, who has lived at Riverview for 19 years, said he signed up for the twice-weekly computer classes so he could figure out how to use the technology to stay in touch with far-away family and friends, in particular his daughter and grandchildren who live in New York. He also has many relatives and friends in Puerto Rico, where he grew up.

“Everyone was on the computer, writing to each other and sending pictures, and I wasn’t able to do that,” he explained. “Then I heard about the computer classes at Riverview and I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go.’ So we did.”

Torres never had the opportunity to attend school, and so never learned to read. He left Puerto Rico at age 20 and lived in New York for many years, working a variety of jobs until his mother, who lived in Springfield, became ill. He headed here to help her in her final years – she died five years ago.

Meanwhile, Torres has always felt he missed out on education, most especially on being able to read. So when he began attending the computer classes with instructor Nathan Bench, Torres augmented his technology studies by mastering letters and words. As he learned to read new words, he added more, pouring through any printed material he found.

Bench said Torres’ work has been nothing short of amazing.

“He’s been here one year, and when he started, he was basically illiterate,” Bench explained. “He’s really moved forward with his computer skills, and along with that he’s learned to read. He’s really motivated.”

The adult computer classes, which draw up to a dozen people at Riverview on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., focus on the basics. Since so many students are eager to get online and communicate with family and friends, Bench makes sure each one has or gets an email address.

SHA ESL/Computer Instructor Nathan Bench, top left, with students in his adult computer literacy class at Riverview Apartments.

SHA ESL/Computer Instructor Nathan Bench, top left, with students in his adult computer literacy class at Riverview Apartments.

They review basic Internet access and protocol, including letter writing, attaching, and using other common features of web-based communication. Bench also covers Microsoft Office programs, including Word, Excel, and on one recent day, Publisher.

They learn how to find travel information online, how to tell if a website is encrypted and other Internet security issues, Google docs and, as Bench said, “what’s coming up in the world of computing.”

Some of the regulars have computers at home, but others do not, so their twice-weekly sessions are their only access to technology and the web. Some are inspired to get computers, thanks to the classes and their newfound knowledge.

“If they buy a computer, I teach them how to set it up, and how to service it,” said Bench, who has a known knack for all things technology.

Bench said Torres has been particularly adept at the technology, with his own laptop and knowledge to keep it safely maintained.

“He’s the trendsetter in the class. He was the first to get a computer, and he helps everyone else out,” Bench said.

For Torres, the classes have been a true gift that he feels certain will keep on giving throughout his life.

“I’m still learning every day,” he said. “Knowing how to read has made me want to know more, and learn more. The classes are great. I like everything about it here.”

 

3340 days ago / Our Elderly Residents
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