When Kelly Sullivan saw that her friend was in need, she created a plan and used technology to make it happen.
Sullivan, who is a client of The Arc Carroll County Inc., noticed that the man was frustrated, having trouble communicating his feelings and needs. She thought that a simple picture board would help him express himself better and lash out less.
She took pictures of the people and things he interacts with most, like his lunchbox and The Arc bus, and formatted them into a one-page sheet using Microsoft Word to print out for him.
“I like to help people,” she said.
Sullivan found resources for the project through The Arc’s new Technology Coaching Center.
The Arc Carroll County celebrated the center in a ribbon-cutting Thursday, Jan. 24. The center offers clients typing and coding classes and one-on-one coaching in technology skills.
In a bright room with several windows, desktop computers line the walls. Plastic chairs in The Arc’s bright orange logo color were set up Thursday morning for guests to watch a presentation on the projector.
Technology coach and instructor Jeremy Roop shared some of the projects clients have completed with their technology and typing training.
“What we are most excited about being able to work with Kelly was not only being able to help someone use technology, but help someone help someone else,” Roop said.
Abby Hough was in the first coding class that The Arc offered and has taken to coding “like a duck to water,” Roop said, and took her skills home to work on them more outside of classes.
She presented some designs in her portfolio Thursday that she created using programs on Khan Academy. She writes lines of code that display as bright, detailed digital designs.
She said she likes to work with ellipses and pointed out one design she created of a Pokémon made out of a bunch of tiny ellipses.
Said Roop: “We believe that computer skills and technology skills are so ingrained … that they are needed basic skills to keep up with the current workforce.”
The center has been a year-and-a-half in the making, he said. It came together through a $3,700 grant from Comcast NBCUniversal and The Arc of the United States.
Jessica Gappa, director of external affairs for Comcast’s Beltway region, said the goal of the grant is to help The Arc recognize the individual goals of participants through training and coaching.
After hearing the stories of The Arc’s clients, she said, “if that isn’t the magical way that we truly make change for our society, for our communities, then I can’t imagine a better way to do it.”
The whole idea of technology training at The Arc Carroll County started when staff members offered a typing class on their personal computers for about six students to gauge interest. It was popular.
Amy Dietrich is one of the typing class students who encouraged the staff to continue pushing to offer the typing classes.
She has completed more than 30 hours of typing instruction and is still going. She’s also featured in a video about her business where she crafts friendship bracelets for friends and also to sell.
The process is “very very relaxing to me,” she said.
They also offered a coding class for about 10 students, but ran into problems with a lack of laptops and outlets to charge. Through the grant and donations of computers by Kite Technology and the Carroll County Public Library headquarters, that’s not a problem anymore.
After the presentation, The Arc client Matt Hamilton demonstrated his typing skills using an online program that recorded his speed and let him choose how much time he wanted to spend doing typing exercises.
Said Executive Director Don Rowe: “I’m so proud of this room because when I would give tours, I would have to ask guests to use their imagination. … It’s exciting to see this spring to life with technology.”
He thanked the technology committee that consulted to help the project come together.
Carol Beatty, secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, said The Arc Carroll County is a trendsetter, “trying new things and taking steps ahead of other nonprofits.”
She spoke about the statewide Hire Ability campaign to encourage local employers to recruit employees with disabilities. A video that features business owners and disabled employees can be a “win-win for employer and employee,” she said.
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Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, presented a proclamation that declared Thursday as Technology Coaching Center Day.
“The work nonprofits do in Carroll County is amazing,” he said.
In keeping with the focus on technology, Roop created an animation of scissors slicing through a virtual ribbon.
In the future, the center hopes to add more resources like a video center where they can create videos for education and advocacy, TV’s for presentations, tablets for coding and maybe eventually virtual reality technology for job training and other immersive experiments.
Director of Development O’Ryan Case announced that the center had just received grants that will make the video studio a reality very soon.
To get in contact about providing technology resources, contact Starr Jolbitado, assistant director of educational partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make a donation to The Arc Carroll County, contact Case at email@example.com.