TMF Success Stories: North Seattle Family Center

This post is the third in a series of “TMF Success Stories,” featuring updates on Technology Matching Fund recipients.

The North Seattle Family Center (NSFC), one of the locations of the Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHSW), is home to the only computer lab in Lake City offering free computer classes. Meeting this responsibility head-on, the NSFC applied for a Technology Matching Fund grant to revitalize their aging computer lab. They purchased four desktop PCs, a laptop PC, and a Mac computer. Additionally, they outfitted each station with headphones and a flash drive. With their new software and hardware, they were ready to serve the community and expand their programming.

The NSFC typically serves clients who are low income or very low income, with almost half having limited or no English skills. To help families succeed, the NSFC is particularly dedicated to improving life skills for clients, teaching them employment skills and workplace English.

Beyond the purchase and installation of the new equipment, NSFC staff  created programming to match the needs of the community. NSFC’s training resources are centered on basic computer skills, job readiness, and English language learning. NSFC also provides resources to lab users looking for help with budgeting, parenting, and homework.

Training and pointing clients to resources

Joy Scott, lab coordinator, took the initiative to create a website for lab participants using Googlesites, a free online website building tool. On the home page, participants can choose from lists (separated into For Adults, For Kids, and Everyone) titled: “What do you want to do today?” Lab participants can choose from Budgeting, Computing Skills, English Language Learning, and Job Readiness, among many other topics. Each topic page lists a broad range of resources for interactive tutorials on everything from using Microsoft Word to learning English grammar rules to building a resume.

A screenshot from the NSFC lab's website.

NSFC collaborates with other service providers and educators in the community, specifically partnering with English language programs at the North Seattle Community College and the Literacy Council.

Currently, the NSFC has programming aimed at meeting the specific needs of various groups, including: Seniors, youth, English Language Learners, and both the Latino and East African communities that reside in the Lake City area.

North Seattle Family Center lab in action.

Two stories of Individual Impact

C.H. was told by a friend that NSFC is able to help out with basic needs. She arrived at NSFC to get a food bag, but a staff member spoke to her about other programs offered at the Center. C.H. had a basic understanding of computers, but wanted to learn more about using technology for job searching. She signed up for individual computer tutoring with one of the student volunteers. Over the course of five sessions, she learned how to use resume writing software, sample interview videos, and how to search for jobs using popular online job search engines.

F.G., a local high school student who participates in the after school homework tutoring program at NSFC, doesn’t have a home computer. He has homework assignments, like research papers, that require computer/internet use for long periods of time. He uses the Seattle Public Library system when he can, but the one-hour limit makes it difficult to have time to do research and write the research paper. Because of the TMF grant, NSFC has new computers with internet access and a current version of Microsoft Word, allowing F.G. to use the lab for researching and writing. He comes early to the after school program to use the computer lab for two hours at a time and successfully completes his homework on time!

To see the website created for NSFC lab users, go to: http://sites.google.com/site/nsfclab/.