Education for Service: Different Generations, Disciplines Serving Each Other at Maria College
When Louis Scalzetto planned to take a college-level English class, he made an appointment at an area college. In speaking to a counselor there, he found out something that changed everything: he had to know how to use the computer in order to take the class. And that was something he hadn’t planned on.
The 80-year-old Albany resident, and a retiree from the New York State Division of Employment, instead turned to Maria College, closer to his home, to audit an Introduction to Computers class, taught by Sharon Hope. He gratefully accepted rides to class from helpful neighbors, one of whom works on the Maria campus.
“When he’s not in class, the other students say, ‘Where’s Louis? Where’s Louis?’” said Hope, Business Department Chairperson and Coordinator of Online Learning at Maria. “That elderly dynamic is just fantastic to have in the class.”
Hope soon learned that in addition to teaching her student the keyboard, she would need to teach him how to hold and maneuver the mouse, a tricky endeavor due to his limited range of motion. Thinking that extra, individualized assistance would help the older student, she contacted Maria’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) department, hoping they would be able to develop a plan to assist him. Modifications on the mouse made it more user-friendly and several OTA students offered individual tutoring and assistance, helping him learn programs like Microsoft Word.
Melodin Brown, an enthusiastic first-year OTA student, sat with Scalzetto one morning, helping him to operate the mouse and navigate through different computer programs. A graduate of Albany High School, Brown started out thinking she would pursue elementary education in college, but after hearing about occupational therapy, knew that was for her. The tutoring situation clearly benefitted the tutor as well as the student.
What plans are in Scalzetto’s future? “I know I have to get through this to take any other course,” he said, “and I find it challenging.” And, the most challenging thing, he said, is the terminology. “There are quite a lot of codes; it’s not that easy!”
Hope said that her student was always eager to learn and never became discouraged. “He was never afraid to try. It was such a pleasure to work with him!”
Scalzetto said he would still like to take that English course. But this time, he’ll stay at Maria College.
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