HAVERHILL — MakeIT Haverhill is on a mission to lift up its neighbors who either lack the language skills or computer literacy needed to get a job or be promoted in their current job.
The nonprofit, located at 301 Washington St., launched in-person English language classes in the fall of 2019 then quickly adapted to the pandemic by switching to remote classes via Zoom in the summer of 2020.
The first languages of students included Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Vietnamese.
“We ran five Zoom classes with eight people per class,” said Keith Boucher, a co-founder of MakeIT Haverhill.
“We continue to run 10-week classes, which are all drop-in and although we’re teaching English, we’re also building trust and confidence in our organization.”
The nonprofit enrolled close to 200 students since it launched its English classes.
“The biggest reason they come is to either get a job or get a better job,” Boucher said. “If you only speak Spanish, you may end up with the most menial job in a kitchen or in a laundry or packing boxes in a factory. No one is going to get promoted unless they have some level of English.
“Part of what we’re doing is giving people confidence in using the English they already know,” he said. “One of our students who was working at Walmart ended up developing the confidence in her English language skills that she got a supervisory promotion and a raise.”
Building on that success, MakeIT Haverhill introduced digital literacy and equity classes.
“The two things keeping many people from getting jobs is not knowing English and not knowing how to use a computer,” he said. “You apply for many jobs online or you find jobs online and if you don’t have a computer or internet access or know how to use the internet, you are at a huge disadvantage.”
So to address the problem, MakeIT Haverhill began working with Essex County Community Foundation and Tech Goes Home to create a pilot program for teaching computer literacy.
“We launched a new program in August to teach 150 people over the next three years how to use a computer,” Boucher said. “Using our own laptop computers, we enrolled nine people in our first class, which was held on two consecutive Saturdays for three hours each.”
Many of the enrolled students didn’t have an email account, so their instructors set them up with Gmail accounts.
Students learned basic keyboard and mouse skills and how to register online with sites such as MassHire as well as how to navigate the Internet and begin using Google’s free office suite, Boucher said.
The first class of 14 students met twice a week for four weeks for one to two hours each time for a total of 15 hours of instruction. Graduation was Nov. 14.
“Some of our graduates said they are now looking for work, some in their 60s or 70s were happy to learn more about being safe online, while others learned how to conduct telehealth calls with their doctors,” he said. “Each person was looking for a different skill to better their lives, whether it was looking for a job or being connected with the world.”
Students who put in the time and effort and complete the course get to keep Chromebook computers courtesy of Tech Goes Home, along with a headset, a mouse, and an internet hotspot free for one year.
“Many of our students were living off their phones and a data plan but now they have the ability to get discounted pricing on internet access,” Boucher said.
The all-volunteer nonprofit does not charge for its classes. Volunteers are always needed. For more information, contact Boucher at Keith@makeithaverhill.com.
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