4-H club provides training for parishioners with job-related skills programs, phones and apps
Courtesy of Hope Bragg
Ivan Pahuamba, Naideth Pahuamba, Pricila Tinajero and Beth Bragg of St. Mark’s Church in Monticello were confirmed in 2021 and wanted to continue serving their church. They have become 4-H Tech Changemakers. Every three weeks after the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass in St. Mark’s, the group offers “The Do’s and Donuts of Technology,” which provides training they’ll need to compete in the job market.
Teenagers from St. Mark’s Church in Monticello held adult classes in their parish and at St. Mary’s Church in McGehee, Desha County, to help them better use and understand advances in technology.
The classes, organized by the 4-H Club and held every three weeks after 9 a.m. Mass, aim to improve job opportunities for adults in Southwest Arkansas. For retirees, everyday skills like turning a smartphone on silent are also taught.
4-H Tech Changemakers offer “The Dos and Donuts of Technology” with the goal of teaching adults the technology and communication skills and knowledge they will need to compete in the job market, including best practices for Internet use, writing emails and good online etiquette, said Hope Bragg, 4-H youth development instructor at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Director of Religious Education at St. Mark’s.
“They bring donuts and coffee, set up tables, give lessons on topics requested by parishioners, and answer questions on everything from setting strong passwords, basic computer etiquette, and of the mobile phone and the correct backup of the information so that it is secure,” Bragg said. “They have taught some of our senior citizens how to turn off their phones or silence them in church, that they can upgrade their phones without losing all their contacts, text messages, photos and other stuff. We’ve even had college professors come in asking for help with Google Docs. It was really gratifying for the children to know that even university professors come to ask them questions.
“Nowadays there’s an underlying understanding that you know how to work with technology, you know how to handle email, how to set up a document, and be professionally prepared. What we do is really important because that we have this technology gap that people don’t know about.”
The group started with four children who were confirmed last year. They completed 40 hours of training to teach statewide, but primarily in southeast Arkansas, on the topics people need to know to successfully find and keep jobs.
“We lack the necessary technology skills (in southeast Arkansas),” Bragg said. “A lot of people are uncomfortable with the internet or don’t know how to use it properly. Learn to be polite on the internet, use social media responsibly and double check what you say or share, reminding people that what they put on social media is here to stay and what employers watch are the great things that our young people are pushing.”
Community reaction has been positive. Six people showed up for the first Do’s and Donuts session last year, but on Palm Sunday this year, 44 people turned up to see the teenagers to help with their technical issues. Many members of the local Hispanic community have asked for help, so the teenagers are being trained to offer English and Spanish lessons, she said.
4-H is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture. Statewide, the 4-H program is run by the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Arkansas Agriculture Division, and clubs have traditionally been associated with helping farmers, but Bragg says today’s clubs “aren’t your mom and dad’s 4-H”.
According to the national organization, it was founded in 1902 to educate rural youth in improved agricultural and household practices. Now the goal is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills in young people.
“4-H today is focused on providing opportunities for children to learn knowledge, develop leadership skills, and practice behavior that will enable them to become self-reliant, productive, and contributing members. of society,” Bragg said. “This includes science, engineering and technology programs, like computer coding and other lifelong skills.”
She said there are 4-H Tech Changemakers groups in Arkansas, including Arkansas, Bradley, Clay, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Pulaski, Saline, Washington, and White counties.
Bragg’s teenage daughter, Beth, is a member of the 4-H Tech Changemakers team in St. Mark.
“The skills we teach are very important when it comes to the job market,” she said. “Nowadays there’s an underlying understanding that you know how to work with technology, you know how to handle email, how to set up a document, and be professionally prepared. What we do is really important because that we have this technology gap that people don’t know about. They just don’t know how to start asking questions. So we’re able to help them bridge that gap to understand those skills.”
While the group currently focuses its training on adults, Beth Bragg said she hopes to expand the program to help teens and young adults who may be looking for part-time or full-time employment.
“We’ve been working with the local school district and are planning to host a coding night next year,” she said. “The local library has also contacted us and we are planning to hold an event there.”
Beth Bragg said being able to help people find solutions makes her feel good.
“I feel so happy and relieved because now people who have these questions – and you don’t know how long they have had these questions. They were able to get the answers they needed. And just knowing that you’ve helped them understand and are just helping to bridge the technology gap they’re facing is amazing.
Please read our comment policy before posting.