AmeriCorps Seniors’ Foster Grandparents of the Wyoming Rockies, sponsored by Action Resources International, has received a Tech2Connect Grant from the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Center on Aging (WyCOA) in the amount of $5,400.
“The grant opportunity came across my desk in August,” said Program Director Maryalice Snider. “We got the grant approved in September.”
Specifically, the program has used funding to purchase Samsung tablets and provide internet vouchers to participating Foster Grandparent volunteers as they are sidelined from their regular service activities of tutoring and mentoring in their classrooms.
“With the grant we bought six tablets, which we have loaned,” said Snider.
The funds are being used to connect older adults from the program’s seven Wyoming counties with technology and training, their schools, and to help in combat social isolation caused by COVID-19. AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents are learning to use technology, participate in Classroom Based Virtual Instruction, and attend their school’s Google and Zoom meetings.
“We have some Foster Grandparents who started from scratch and didn’t know the first thing about using smart technology,” said Maryalice Snider, program director. “They’ve gone from not even having email, to participating in twice weekly tech trainings over Zoom with our Project Coordinator and accessing WyCOA and Wyoming Assistive Technology Program content.
“They miss their schools and the children they serve there and want to help their school communities meet the challenges of virtual learning during the pandemic. For many, this has meant a definite shift out of their comfort zone.”
It has been a slow process, conceded both Snider and Project Coordinator Jaime Levick.
“The past two months we’ve been slowly getting people on Zoom,” said Levick. “I would say that more than half the volunteers are not using technology.”
For the most part, the seniors are open to this,” she said. “I get feedback every time we do a zoom training.”
The training sessions are done twice a week and seniors can view these live or watch a video later. Most do the session live, although one senior who lives in Rock Springs goes to the library and watches the video, according to Levick. She added that for those who watch live but want to review what they were taught, a link is sent.
Because the grant money and the program came about very quickly, there was quite a bit of scrambling to get started.
“We had to pull this very quickly,” said Levick, who has also benefited from this, as have the seniors enrolled in the project. “It’s a good learning experience for me, too. It’s been challenging in a very rewarding way.”
“This grant has enabled us to adapt to the needs of our volunteers in ways that we weren’t able to do before the pandemic,” Snider said. “We are thankful to be awarded these funds to continue to provide services for our volunteers so they can continue to serve their communities.”
About the program
WyCOA has also partnered with the Wyoming Assistive Technology Program to provide training videos to assist older adults in learning about the technology that can ensure they have access to social services, healthcare and keep them engaged with family and friends. For more information on these educational videos, visit www.uwyo.edu/wycoa.