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SHPE-UA member Patty Gámez, center, works with attendees seeking to enhance their computer knowledge at the 2010 La Familia event.

Hispanic Engineering Group Gives Free Computer Lessons to Tucson Community

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Hispanic Engineering Group Gives Free Computer Lessons to Tucson Community

Oct. 11, 2011
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Workshops cover using Microsoft Word to create a résumé, Excel to create a budget spreadsheet, and Google to search for and apply for online jobs.

The UA student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is hosting a free computer-training workshop Oct. 15. The event is called "La Familia" and SHPE expects as many as 200 people to attend.

SHPE organizers have promoted the workshops in several Tucson communities with the aim of attracting people who have never used a computer, or who have only limited experience with computers.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and starts at the aerospace and mechanical engineering building with an introductory session and a keynote speech at 9 a.m. by Wanda Ronquillo, an engineering manager at IBM in Tucson.

Ronquillo and IBM have supported La Familia and SHPE for many years, and this year IBM is providing about 10 volunteers to help attendees learn new computer skills. After Ronquillo's talk, attendees will break into smaller groups and disperse to numerous engineering computer labs around campus for specific workshops that will be taught in both English and Spanish.

"For 11 consecutive years," Ronquillo said, "IBM has assisted the University of Arizona SHPE chapter bridge the digital divide by reaching out to those who missed out learning how to navigate the information superhighway, the Internet, the World Wide Web ... call it what you wish." Ronquillo added: "This is what we strive to do -- introduce the participants to the basics that will enable them to connect to this digital world we live in."

Workshops will cover using Windows-based computers, using Microsoft Word to create a résumé and Excel to create a budget spreadsheet, and using Google's g-mail and search capabilities to search for and apply for online jobs.

"We believe that educating adults in our community is very important because of the vast amount of technology we encounter in our everyday lives," said Jose Aguilar, SHPE vice president for La Familia and civil engineering student. "If you don't know how to use a computer, you can't fill out an online application, you can't get email, and you can't keep up to date on the latest news."

Michael Hernandez is president of the IBM Tucson Hispanic Networking Group, which supports SHPE and La Familia. "It has been an honor and a privilege to assist the University of Arizona SHPE chapter with their La Familia event over the past several years," Hernandez said. "Seeing the joy that event participants have when they set up a personal email address the first time, something we as engineers use daily and probably take for granted, brightens up my day, and encourages me to get more involved year after year."

Aguilar and SHPE have amassed an army of volunteers to help workshop attendees extract the greatest benefit from the La Familia workshops. In addition to the 10 IBM volunteers, SHPE itself is providing about 40 student volunteers, and numerous Google student ambassadors will also add their knowledge to the mix. In all, Aguilar expects to have a team of about 60 people to keep the workshops on track.

Google set up the student ambassador program so students could learn about the company's products and programs at campus events hosted by ambassadors. The program enables Google to understand campus culture while helping students with professional development, leadership, and communication skills, and providing access to a network of Google ambassadors across the country.

After a day poring over computer screens and learning essential skills, all attendees will reconvene to share experiences and try and win some raffle prizes, including computers, USB flash drives, and T-shirts.

"This is very important to us," Aguilar said. "Computer knowledge has become essential in all of our lives, and you miss opportunities if you can't use a computer."