By Katie Wampler | Staff writer
He just may be the youngest board member Carmel’s PrimeLife Enrichment has ever seen. But according to Executive Director Sandy Stewart, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School sophomore Daniel Kent displays an uncommon passion for service, specifically to senior citizens.
“He’s an inspiration,” she said.
Kent does not see himself that way, however. He simply saw a need and acted to fill it.
“When I wake up, I really am looking forward to volunteering,” Kent said. “It is absolutely fun.”
It all began in summer 2003, as Kent prepared for his freshman year at Brebeuf. He was volunteering at a public library to teach computer skills to senior citizens.
A gentleman Kent had been teaching approached him and told him what a great class it was. The man told Kent he had a friend in a nursing home who needed to learn to use computers but could not come to the library for the class.
“I really wanted to help his friend,” Kent said. “So I looked around for an organization that could teach Internet skills.”
But Kent found none.
“After I looked throughout the community and didn’t find any, I sent out surveys to 10 retirement homes (to see if they would be interested in such an organization),” Kent said. “Nine responded saying they were interested. After that, Senior Connects began to form, and here we are today.”
Before he was even in high school, he formed what is today a 250-member not-for-profit business serving seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers across central Indiana, from Indianapolis to Carmel and Westfield. The Senior Connects staff usually spends Saturdays and holidays off school at facilities across central Indiana, Kent said.
And the business continues to grow.
Monday, about a dozen Senior Connects high school volunteers spent their day off school at PrimeLife Enrichment, hosting what was officially Senior Computer Literacy Awareness Day in Westfield, thanks to Kent’s efforts.
The teens loaded 50 monitors onto the tables in PrimeLife’s multi-purpose room. On a first-come, first-served basis, the Senior Connects staff gave away the monitors, as well as 100 copies of a CD loaded with antivirus and spyware protection software.
For three hours, the students sat with seniors, answering questions and providing demonstrations.
Kent’s achievement has caught national attention. This year CNN named Kent one of nine Do Something BRICK Award winners nationwide, an honor the broadcasting network likens to the “Oscars of youth service awards.” Along with the recognition, Kent received a $10,000 scholarship for providing computer access to 61 assisted living facilities and nursing homes, serving more than 10,000 residents statewide.
Kent credits these team members and all Senior Connects volunteers with the business’ success.
“Primarily, this is a team effort,” Kent said. “Without everyone else none of this could ever happen.”
Brian Kelley is a freshman at Brebeuf this year and has worked at Senior Connects since fall.
“I like helping people, and I really like computers,” he said.
Stephanie Miller is a sophomore at Carmel High School and has volunteered with Senior Connects for about two months.
“I knew people who were in it, and I decided it would be a good thing to do,” she said. “I like helping out other people.”
“I am dazzled by these young people,” Stewart said. “(Kent) is just a remarkable young man who identified a need in the community and did something about it.”
Kent said he hopes to turn the company into a not-for-profit franchise and establish multiple locations statewide that employ his Senior Connects philosophy.
In the end, Kent feels collaboration is key.
“It’s true that one person can make a difference. But through teamwork, we can change the world.”
Senior Connects is a not-for-profit organization dedicated empowering the elder generations in computer literacy through youth-senior partnerships. To learn more about Senior Connects, take a free Internet lesson or contact the Senior Connects staff, visit the Web site: http://www.seniorconnects.org