Timothy M. Boldt Exceptional Service Award
In honor of youth volunteer Tim Boldt who passed away in 1998.
Sixteen-year-old Daniel Kent is redefining cool. It’s cool to wear a bow tie. It’s cool to volunteer. And by golly, when elderly people receive an e-mail from a family member or grandchild for the first time, that’s “really cool,” too.
At Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and several other high schools across the region, Kent has developed a following of a couple hundred young people willing to give their time, energy and seemingly inherent ability to understand and use technology to grand folks whose average age is 87.
His business, Net Literacy , reaches out to the area’s elderly through “Senior Connects,” a program that offers seniors free classes on computer and Internet fundamentals, such as how to sign up for and use e-mail, how to perform online searches and how to upload photographs for sharing with others. The student-run organization also builds computer labs in retirement homes and other senior communities using donated equipment.
Net Literacy has been recognized by public officials across the political spectrum and at the highest levels of government, from Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson to President George W. Bush. Kent has been profiled in area newspapers and national publications, and will soon be featured in People Magazine.
Kent said he founded Net Literacy in 2003 after his association with an elderly gentleman who lived in a retirement home, whom he taught to communicate online with a friend, “No one should be left out [of technology’s benefits] especially with computers more prevalent these days.” Kent tried looking for a volunteer opportunity specifically geared toward seniors and technology, but couldn’t find a good fit. With some help from his dad, he conducted surveys in retirement homes and determined there was a need for this service.
Brebeuf is one of the only area high schools that has a community service requirement for graduation. Students there are not only tasked with contributing to their community, they must take a class in community service and write “reflections” on their experiences.
Through word of mouth, Kent has amassed an army of student volunteers from Brebeuf, Carmel High School , Arlington High School , the city of Fort Wayne and others. He has expanded Net Literacy to include components for younger learners and individuals of all ages who reside in public housing and who were left behind by the “digital divide.” Net Literacy’s “Safe Connects” program teaches online security and safety from predators and identity thieves. They also partner with Indiana Recycling Coalition members to reduce computer rubbish that creates toxins in landfills.
The organization is well sponsored, and receives grants and hardware donations from several sources including the Techpoint Foundation . Kent does his own grant writing, as well as developing lesson plans for the various courses. He’s always looking for new groups of seniors he can help, and finds Meals on Wheels ideal for potential synergies, such as training some of MOW’s elderly volunteers to reach out to clients who want to use technology.
“These seniors are always so thankful,” said Kent . “At first, many are hesitant, or they think computers are bad, or that they can’t learn. We go slowly and make it a comfortable experience using one student volunteer for each senior. It’s almost like our volunteers become surrogate grandchildren.”
Kent said that in addition to the excitement seniors feel when they get their first e-mail, they also enjoy sharing pictures and accessing the increasing number of government services that have come online. “No one is too old to learn,” said Kent . “Computers are tools with endless possibilities. When we see [them] make that connection, that’s really cool!”
“We are proud and pleased to offer the Meals on Wheels Timothy M. Boldt Exceptional Service Award to such a fine young man as Daniel Kent,” said Barb Morris, MOW Executive Director. “It’s especially heartwarming to see young people offer their time and talents to seniors who are often unseen and isolated. Net Literacy has provided a way for youth to reach out to this forgotten population, and we applaud the efforts of Daniel Kent and all the teens involved with this service.”
About Timothy M. Boldt
Tim Boldt, according to his mom, Peggy Boldt, was an outgoing, gentle and fun-loving soul who loved visiting the elderly people he assisted with odd jobs around their homes. A student at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis , Boldt took to heart the school’s mission to serve others. In 1998, midway through his senior year, Tim tragically died in an accident. Meals on Wheels is pleased to name the Exceptional Service Award in Tim Boldt’s honor.
For further details, please contact us at 317.633.6325, or by e-mail at [email protected].