Tech Tutors connects high school students, senior citizens amid pandemic

By Avery Edward

In 2015, Kristen Copin and Jacob Pace, Aliso Niguel High School seniors at the time, identified a need in their community: many senior citizens were unfamiliar with or struggling to keep up with technological advancements.

While senior citizens found frustration when operating devices like iPhones, iPads and computers, Copin and Pace grew up in a digital world. They could utilize their knowledge to help bridge the gap with the senior community.

The team created “Technology Tutors,” a program that pairs high school students with senior citizens and facilitates opportunities to engage with and teach these seniors about today’s ever evolving technology.

Tech Tutors partnered with Sea Country Senior and Community Center in Laguna Niguel and offers the program weekly.

Yvonne Davis, the Senior Club president at Sea Country, discussed the difficulty many Sea Country members experience with technology.

“Having the device is one thing and knowing how to use them is another. It is a brand-new world for many,” she said.

John Ulrich, a Senior Committee member who helped initially create the Tech Tutors program, says that over the years Tech Tutors has “just gotten better and better, thanks to the kids.”

Though initially the program worked primarily with Sea Country and student volunteers from ANHS, over the last five years the program has expanded to include other CUSD schools and provide instruction to more senior residents throughout Orange County.

Anchal Bhaskar, a senior at ANHS, now runs the program and is responsible for the expansion.

After joining the club as an eighth grader, Bhaskar took over leadership her sophomore year of high school and has helped make Tech Tutors one of the most popular programs offered at Sea Country.

The program’s success has prompted other senior centers to approach Tech Tutors, inquiring how they can implement similar programs at their facilities.

Bhaskar was also responsible for innovating the program’s operations amid the current COVID-19 crisis.

The Tech Tutor program has now moved online, utilizing video calls and putting to practice the skills the seniors have learned from the program.

Bhaskar says the transition was difficult and stressful at first but is essential right now given that throughout the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing measures, technology is what often keeps us connected.

Through the work of Tech Tutors, Bhaskar hopes to offer seniors the ability to maintain connections through technology.

“Lots of my peers take for granted technology and how accessible it is to us,” Bhaskar said. “The ability to give that to another generation, so that they can connect with their families and connect with each other is what I am most proud of.”

Weekly phone and video calls from tutors offer the seniors not only an opportunity to learn more about new devices and technological features, but also the chance to connect with a younger generation.

Ulrich explained how the program is about a lot more than just technology.

“The kids learn from the seniors and the seniors learn from the kids,” he said. “It is a real cross-generational experience and they all enjoy being with each other.”

Davis explained that many Tech Tutor participants keep in touch with their tutors outside of the program.

“The actual social contact and communication is essential,” she said.

Personally, Bhaskar feels her work with Sea Country has taught her invaluable skills.

“I’ve learned patience, and how to collaborate,” she said. “I have a lot of responsibility.”

“The seniors are also able to learn really valuable skills from the program and connect with the younger generation,” Bhaskar said.

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