Computer literacy graduation celebrates seniors’ achievement

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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LANETT — The council chamber at Lanett City Hall was filled to capacity Friday afternoon. Lots of friends and family of local seniors were there to see history being made. It was the first-ever graduation ceremony for a Northstar senior citizen computer literacy class. A total of 20 local seniors received certificates of computer literacy. Each took a 10-week course provided through the Adult Education Department at the Valley campus of Southern Union State Community College. Instruction took place on Tuesday and Thursday evening in the blue top building at the L.B. Sykes Community Center.

At 3 p.m. EDT, the graduates-to-be marched into the council chamber to a recorded version of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” 

A cadet from the Lanett High JOTC led the way.

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“I know you seniors have eagerly looked forward to this day for the past 10 weeks,” Mayor Jamie Heard told them in opening remarks. “I could see fear in your eyes on your first day in the class. It was as if you were saying to yourself, ‘What am I doing here? I’m too old to learn this.’ Well, here we are at graduation, and each one of you has proved that you’re never too old to learn.”

Members of the graduating class ranged in age from their late 60s to the late 80s.

Lanett Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Boyd told members of the class that she was excited to be with them on this day. 

“You are great examples of what it means to be a life-long learner,” she said. “I am so proud of you guys. You are setting such a good example for our children to see. Some of you have gone from not knowing how to turn on a computer to being computer literate.”

Officer Dwayne Fears of the Lanett Police Department got everyone in a lively mood by singing “How Did I Make It This Far? It Had to Be God.”

He started it solo and ended up with almost everyone in the building clapping and singing along.

Dr. Michael Morrison of the East Alabama Area Agency on the Aging followed by assuring everyone he wouldn’t be doing a solo. 

“Officer Fears can sing like a nightingale,” he said. “When I tried out for a church choir I was told that I sang like I had spent a night in jail.”

That got some laughter from the crowd. In a serious vein, Morrison commended the Lanett Senior Center for its vision in having such programs as computer literacy for seniors. 

“Lanett is setting a good example for the 35 other senior centers in our district,” he said. “I commend your senior center manager, Sandra Thornton, Mayor Heard and the city council for having such an outstanding senior center. You guys inspire me. On behalf of the East Alabama Area Agency on the Aging, I congratulate you on having completed this course.”

The principal speaker for the day, the Rev. Michael Winston of Greenwood Baptist Church, said that life is a gift from God and in life we never stop learning. 

“Some people look at being one year older than last year,” he said. “You graduates are looking at being one year better. Some people don’t live as long as you graduates have, and you are showing us that learning can take place at any age. We have had a lot of storms here lately, but I want each of you to know that God gives us a rainbow after the storms.  I commend the Class of 2023 for not just living but continuing to learn.”

Class Valedictorian Brenda Heard thanked Mayor Heard and the city council, Senior Center Manager Sandra Thornton and the Adult Education Department at SUSCC for making the class possible. 

“We were given the opportunity to learn computer skills, and it opened up a whole new world to us,” she said. “Technology is advancing every day. It warms my heart that we were given the chance to see a little bit of this new world. You have to be knowledgeable in technology to overcome fear of device use. Thank you for helping us overcome that fear.”

Heard thanked class teacher Debra Clark on having been kind and patient in working with the students. 

“We’ve all learned that you are never too old to keep learning,” she said. “Each of us has something to give. Let’s keep learning and giving back to others every day.”

“Not having computer skills can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life,” said Connor Chauveaux, director of adult education at SUSCC. “Without them, they are locked out of many opportunities and activities. It’s often easier for those who are unsure of digital literacy in general to be taken advantage of. The goal of our Northstar Digital Literacy class is to avoid all those things.”

Chauveaux said the graduates are role models for the rest of the community. 

“They show us that learning doesn’t stop once you are finished with school,” she said. “It is possible at any age. We would like to commend this class for taking the initiative to remain engaged with the world around them.”

“I am happiest that this class can now Skype with their grandbabies, prepare handouts of their Bible study classes, download videos of cooking demonstrations and talk to their old Navy buddies online. And mot importantly, they can do all of these activities with confidence.”

Thornton presented yellow roses to the class valedictorian, Brenda Heard; salutatorian, Betty Ward, and their teacher, Debra Clark.

“You all made it, guys!” she told them. “I sometimes felt more like a social worker or counselor to keep all of you going. I want to thank our recreation director, Trent McCants, for all his support, and the mayor was awesome in the way he supported us. He was here for almost every class, encouraging everyone to stick it out and to learn what to do in any situation. I want all of you to know that we are so proud of you.”