Submitted by Nancy S. Heck
Posted: March 20, 2008
On March 24, 2008 at 3:30 p.m. at Carmel High School, Mayor Jim Brainard will recognize the student volunteers of Net Literacy with a proclamation commending their five years of service and contributions to the City of Carmel and other cities throughout Indiana.
Net Literacy, originally called Senior Connects, is a nonprofit organization that began in 2003 to help others by increasing computer access, computer and Internet literacy, and Internet safety awareness.
In May of 2003, Net Literacy founder, Daniel Kent, an eighth grade student at Carmel Middle School at the time, called Carmel Mayor, Jim Brainard, and asked him for help. Daniel and a group of students wanted to hold their first computer drive so they could build computer labs in senior citizen community centers and independent living facilities. To Daniel’s surprise, the Mayor offered to hold the computer drive in Carmel City Hall.
Kent stated, “The Mayor’s support and a story shown on ‘Connecting with Carmel’ on Carmel Government’s Channel 16 really helped us when we were just starting out.” Kent was also amazed to see the amount of support that a group of eighth grade students received from the City. The support truly helped to provide Net Literacy with the credibility it needed to enable the organization to go forth and try to make a difference.
For Net Literacy, “making a difference” includes providing increased computer access to over 65,000 individuals in four states, recruiting U.S. Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh to serve as Net Literacy’s Honorary Co-Chairs, and working together with State Representative David Orentlicher to have the Indiana Legislature pass the “Net Literacy Day” resolution. Net Literacy also has received awards from national leaders, ranging from an award received from former President Clinton to President Bush presenting an award during a White House ceremony.
Net Literacy also has received much support from the local business community. “Almost since our inception, Bright House Networks has been Net Literacy’s primary partner in the Carmel and Marion County areas. Over the years, the company has contributed over $100,000 to support our efforts to promote computer literacy and Internet safety. Bright House really took a chance on a bunch of middle school students who asked them for support many years ago — and that has made all the difference. Bright House Networks helps us in many ways, including providing one of their executives to serve on our Board of Directors,” says Kent.
Currently, Carmel remains the hub of Net Literacy’s activities with a new generation of student volunteers that repurpose computers and continue to teach senior citizens and others computer and Internet skills. Carmel High School students have named their Net Literacy club “Carmel Connects.” Morgan Yang and Sachin Santhakumar serve as Co-Presidents of the Carmel Connects Club, and oversee a wide range of activities. “Every week, our club meets to repurpose computers, some of which go to eligible families of students at Carmel elementary schools. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re able to touch families and really help make a difference in these children’s success at school,” says Yang. Co-President Santhakumar agrees adding, “Another of our current initiatives is increasing internet safety awareness. We filmed three internet safety public service announcements in January that will run on Bright House cable, and are producing a one hour Internet safety program for high school students and their parents that will also be available to everyone on Bright House’s local Video on Demand service.” The internet safety production will be filmed by Carmel High School students.
“This is the fourth year that the Senior Connects/Net Literacy program has helped to teach Carmel senior citizens computer and Internet skills,” says Omar Bari, team leader of a group of Carmel High School students who are finishing their third year of working with seniors at Manor Care at Summer Trace. Bari also stated, “This is my fourth year volunteering on Saturdays with the Senior Connects/Net Literacy program, and it’s the greatest feeling helping them learn how to use email so they can stay in touch with their families. I don’t know who gets the most out of it — the senior citizens or us, the student volunteers.”
“One important difference about Net Literacy is that it is student-empowered,” says Will Petrovic, a Carmel High School Junior who was recently appointed to the Net Literacy Board. The nonprofit organization was founded by students and even today, student volunteers comprise half of Net Literacy’s 20-person board. Students manage the four core programs as well as all of the day-to-day activities. Kelley added, “Because Net Literacy is student managed, we are always looking for our next generation of student leaders. Together with Carmel High School Junior Katherine Hill, Will represents the next year’s leadership for Net Literacy.”
“I am proud that the City was able to assist an organization that has engaged over 650 student volunteers during the past five years,” says Mayor Brainard. “These students have done an extraordinary job helping to increase digital inclusion, and the City is proud to recognize them by a proclamation honoring them for five years of extraordinary service.”
Nancy S. Heck is director of community relations for the city of Carmel. Contact Heck by email at [email protected]@carmel.in.gov or call (317) 571-2494.