During the school day, El Cerrito High sophomore Jonah Gratol is heavily involved with computers and electronic devices as a student in TechFutures, the high school’s information technology academy.
Now Gratol and 10 other academy students are leaving the campus on Wednesday afternoons to share their technology skills with senior citizens who normally don’t have access to assistance with the latest technology.
The students receive community service credit for graduation for the program held at the El Cerrito Open House Senior Center, and the seniors get one-on-one help with using all the features of their iPhones, iPads and other devices.
The 50-minute Wednesday sessions are held at the center, 6500 Stockton Ave., from 2 to 5 p.m.
“Some folks are interested in the cameras, some in using the phone, some in apps, some people don’t even have a device yet,” said program adviser Steve Lipson, who also serves on El Cerrito’s Committee on Aging. “The students show and tell a variety of things that you can actually do with these devices.”
Last week, Gratol was working with Kensington resident Filomena Giese, 76, who needed help operating the camera on her iPad to take photos of her grandchildren for an album.
Giese said she has taken a larger iPad class offered at the Senior Center three times, but had still not mastered all the features.
“One-on-one has been better for me,” she said. “There was no time in the class to talk about everything (I needed).”
At the same time, retiree Sue Goldberg of El Cerrito was receiving help from El Cerrito High junior Noor Ul Ain Ali in using FaceTime, the phone app that provides an image to callers of the person they are talking with.
Goldberg learned how to install an app for the Uber ride-sharing service on her phone at a previous session.
She said the sessions with the students have given her immediate help, noting that the regular senior center personal technology classes taught by instructor Julian Kaye have a six-month waiting list.
“I had a few questions about FaceTime which Noor cleared up,” Goldberg said.
Lipson said that Kaye taught training sessions for the students before the one-on-one sessions with the seniors began.
“(Unlike most adults) none of the students said that using a cell phone as a phone was the most important thing to them,” he said. “A lot of the kids said texting and some said music.”
Gratol and Ali said they are especially interested in the digital art design component of the TechFutures program, which includes work on the Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator software.
“The academy prepares them for going forward in a four-year program that they are interested in,” Lipson said. “The graduation rate is something like 98 percent.”
Lipson is beginning an identical program to help seniors with personal technology at Kennedy High School in Richmond, which also has a TechFutures academy.
“The kids from the academy really deliver,” he said.