Alvin Lee teaches a beginning course in Microsoft Excel to adult students at Savannah's Bull Street Library. But it was another group of students who got him into computers in the first place. "I was forced into it," he said. "I was teaching in the school system, got transferred to a computer science magnet program teaching fifth-graders who had been in that computer science magnet since kindergarten. They ran circles around me. I had a choice, I could either come home and cry, or I could learn."
That was evidence of the trend that people are increasingly computer savvy, and it's incredibly useful to keep with the times. Now this self-taught computer guru is spreading the knowledge.
"[The computer lab at the library] was originally funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," explained Lee. "One of the stipulations of that grant was that we had to offer classes to try to bridge that digital divide. So we make computers available to people who cannot afford one or just for some reason don't have one."
Students can take free classes to learn about the internet, email, PowerPoint, spreadsheets, things instructors say are crucial in today's workplace. "We reaching out to the community, trying to get them to come in, take the classes," said Lee. "There have been people who come in, take the classes, and then are able to put on their resume 'I know Microsoft Excel, I know Microsoft Word,' which could make the difference between getting that job and not getting that job."
Back in the workforce after a long disability, student Henry Lafleur says these classes are a tremendous benefit. "These are wonderful beginning classes and these instructors are excellent at working with beginners and guiding them through the steps and get them where they want to go," he told us. "I think it's a wonderful community resource, actually."
And the library encourages everyone to take advantage. As Lee put it, "Computers don't bite. You can't hurt them, they can't hurt you. We're more than willing to sit down with you and walk you through the process. Once you catch that bug, it's really contagious and you'll be using computers all the time."