Forty students from 15 countries are now computer literate, thanks to completing a seven-month training program at Computer CORE The program's mission is to "help low-income adults acquire the technological and life skills they need to pursue career aspirations."
Last Friday's graduates were the eighth class to complete the course in the school's five year history, bringing the total number of graduates to just under 200. Each student who completes the course receives a free computer in addition to a certificate of graduation.
"You bring energy, ambition and determination. You are the smart ones. You know the value of computers. You don't know how far you will go but you now have an important tool — your computer skills," Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper said to the graduates.
This was buttressed by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8). "Your grandchildren will discover that you laid the foundation for a better life. This is the start of the rest of your life," he said.
"This is a part of something much bigger. It will send a message to generations we will never see. America is about the future and who we are," Moran said.
Computer CORE's first graduating class in 1999 consisted of six students, according to Debra M. Roepke, founder and executive director. "The next year we graduated 12. But, this year is our greatest number of graduates at 78," she said. There are two graduations annually, in April and December.
One of Computer CORE's prime sponsors is the Boeing Corporation. This year the company raised $22,000 to further the school's mission, said Cecil Black, chairman, Boeing Employee Community Fund. He congratulated the students for pursuing computer skills and for sticking with the seven-month program.
Each group attends a two-hour class twice a week over the length of the course. A student must complete at least 11 weeks of instruction in order to be eligible for a free refurbished computer.
"The training you've gotten here will help you to help your children as they go through the education process. Children are now receiving computer training in schools at the kindergarten level," Black said.
"The computer has replaced the telephone and fax machine as the basic tool of business. At the beginning of the 21st century there were one half billion computers in the world. Five hundred million of those are in the United States," he said.
TOM PYLE, CHAIRMAN of the CORE Board of Directors, kicked off the program at Farlington Presbyterian Church, 3846 King St., site of the school; Pyle had just been married that day.
"We're so proud to provide the reception," Roepke said jokingly, before recognizing the long service of Pyle and John Nelson, the board's secretary.
With both men's term on the board expiring, Roepke said, "We would not exist today without you." In his opening remarks, Pyle recognized the array of supporters who contribute time and money to making the school a success.
This was echoed by three student speakers. Each praised the school, its benefactors, and the staff that enabled them to gain their technological knowledge.
Each of the graduates received their certificates from Pepper and Moran as their names were read off by Mary McDowell, a Computer CORE administrator and teacher. Groups were divided into day and night class attendees.
AS A NON-PROFIT organization providing a community service, Computer CORE will be one of the organizations featured in a Channel 4 holiday special airing prior to Christmas. It focuses on "charitable giving and non-profits doing good work in the area," according to Roepke.
In 2003 Computer CORE, which stands for Community Outreach and Education, received the Leadership Award from the Washington Area Women's Foundation which brought with it $5,000. Individual donations to the school have increased 270 percent over the past year, its literature states
The majority of the school's instructional staff is volunteer. More teachers are being sought who can provide instruction in Windows; Office Suite applications of word processing, spreadsheets, database, and presentations; Internet navigation; and basic hardware and software. Positions are also available in a host of other specialties, according to its literature.
Computer CORE's free course is designed to "promote the realization of better opportunities through basic computer skills training." The only charge to the student is a $100 materials fee. For more information log onto firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-931-7346.