Making a connection
SAN ANDREAS, Apr 10, 2012 (The Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Betty Hill, 76, was once plagued by pesky pop-ups.
Then she met Austin Reaves, 15, who purged Hill's laptop of some of its annoying start-up habits.
"This program, Organizer, I want it in here, but I don't want it to come up immediately," Hill said to Reaves as they sat across from each other last Tuesday afternoon at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2600 in San Andreas.
Within minutes, Organizer had been tamed, and both Hill and her husband, Charles Hill, 78, were delighted to have Reaves' assistance.
"They've grown up with the iPhones," Charles Hill said of Reaves and his peers. "When I was a young man, we didn't even have a telephone at our house."
That's why a number of Calaveras High School students each week take a short walk to the nearby VFW post to spend time with post members. All involved say that what started as a simple effort to offer technical assistance has grown over the past five weeks to something much more.
"We get to hear what they've been through," said Spencer Cox, one of the high school students.
The subject of those conversations is often very personal and moving, said Tessa Brawner, also a Calaveras High student. "They talk about what they've sacrificed," Brawner said.
Both the technical help and the personal connection is exactly what two friends, teacher Dobbi Fletcher and online merchant Denise Konz, hoped to achieve when they came up with the idea for T-Vet, the Teenagers, Veterans, Education in Technology project.
Fletcher said she and Konz had their brainstorm while riding exercise bicycles at a gym.
The two made phone calls, proposed the idea to the leadership of VFW 2600 and suggested the idea as a project for Fletcher's son Dalton, 16, a Calaveras High School student.
"I left it up to Dalton to recruit his responsible friends," Dobbi Fletcher said.
At first, the students expected to visit the post once a month. But demand was so great, they've been coming every week to help post members and their relatives navigate a wide array of devices, from e-readers to smartphones to tablets.
"Some people will say 'I have this Kindle. My daughter gave it to me. I don't know what to do with it,' " Dobbi Fletcher said.
As they unraveled the mysteries of wireless networking and USB sticks, the youths and the veterans struck up conversations on other topics.
One day, Navy veteran Tom Diermier mesmerized students with an account of what he saw at Pearl Harbor as he assisted in retrieving human remains from below the water in the days following the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on U.S. military installations there.
"I drove the kids home, and all they wanted to talk about were his accounts," Dobbi Fletcher said.
Fletcher and Konz have new goals for T-Vet, including expanding the bandwidth and wireless networks at Post 2600, and making devices such as iPads available for veterans to use there.
Russell Friday, a Navy veteran and a VFW 2600 member, is a regular at the Tuesday afternoon T-Vet sessions. "I know the veterans are really enjoying it," Friday said.
Contact reporter Dana M. Nichols at (209) 607-1361 or email@example.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/calaverasblog.
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