Some had never touched a computer raton (mouse) until members of the UA student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers guided novices through the most elementary of computer operations at the recent 12th annual La Familia community service event.
One workshop attendee said her daughter helps her by paying her bills online on their home computer, but she said her daughter hasn't taught her how to use the computer so she could do it herself. That's why she was so gratified to learn about the SHPE's free computer workshop. The program also offered advanced computer training, in Spanish and English, in how to use Facebook and other communication tools.
SHPE students recruited the 80 Hispanic attendees from Southside communities in Tucson, Ariz., by handing out flyers, written in Spanish, and inviting adults to learn computer skills in a culturally sensitive setting with the latest computer technology.
SHPE volunteer Heriberto Bujanda, a freshman majoring in industrial engineering, said his task was to recruit attendees by calling five people who came to last year's La Familia. He said all five were excited to hear about the 2012 event on and agreed to return.
"It's gratifying doing good things for other people and not just be out for me. It makes me a little less selfish," Bujanda said. Of the attendees, he said: "It makes them feel it's never too late to learn technology. We can always learn new things, no matter our age. Today, we're like a big family, helping them."
SHPE member Moslin Cruz, 20, an electrical engineering junior, said some of the La Familia attendees in the beginner's workshop speak very little English and told him they had never touched a mouse before, and had no idea how to turn on a computer or where to find the "on" button.
Cruz said he showed them "that the computer is a very powerful tool, that access to the Internet, to search engines like Google, will show them anything they could possibly want. Some didn't even know how to click the mouse button," he said. "Wow. Now they are writing full sentences with Microsoft Word, surfing on the Internet and looking at YouTube."
Robert Valenzuela, 68, maintains the grounds at Omni National golf course. He came to the workshop to learn how to do more than surf the net. He's been using his home computer to follow the news in his hometown in Mexico, but he had never created a document on a computer, never opened Microsoft Word, he said. La Familia taught him how to do that.
Nestor Franco, a junior in aerospace engineering, was one of the student volunteers at the event. He said he joined SHPE as a sophomore to give him contact with other Hispanic students studying engineering. "It can be kind of tough meeting people" at such a large university, he said.
Franco was among the more than 20 bilingual SHPE members who provided one-on-one, hands-on instruction to the adult students. "These people really appreciate our patience and our time. It's really simple for us, but for them, it's whoa! It's a way to give back to the community."
The leader of this year's smoothly run La Familia, Dana Cordova, an aerospace engineering senior, said the training means a lot. "It will help them with work and with life." Participants at the Nov. 3 event used computer labs in several engineering buildings on the main UA campus and had a lunch at banquet tables in the Modern Languages atrium.
La Familia was supported by key sponsors Frito Lay North America, IBM and RISE, the recycling equipment company.
At a raffle at the closing ceremony in the Modern Languages auditorium, several attendees won flash drives, another won a gift card from Best Buy. One delighted winner got a laptop and two others won desktop computers.