Come S.A.I.L. away

Students teach seniors how to use internet

If it weren’t for their grandkids, most senior citizens would have little use for computers, the Internet, gmail, Facebook, and all the other modern day techno toys.
But of course, there are the grandkids. So many seniors, including some right here in Secaucus, overcome their fear of the Web in order to log on and “touch” family members who may be averse to writing letters.
A new tutoring program offered in the Secaucus School District seeks to bridge the technology gap that sometimes divides seniors from the “tweens.” The program, Service Activities Involvement and Leadership (S.A.I.L.) was launched this year by Service Learning Coordinator Stacey Lee. Through S.A.I.L., students at Secaucus Middle School and High School volunteer their time and tutor seniors on everything from computer basics (this is your keyboard, this funny little thing is called a mouse…) to the finer points of netiquette (don’t type LOL when a grandchild writes that their hamster has died).


“Most of them want to learn how to use e-mail so they can talk with their grandkids.” – Nicholas Mimikos

“Most of them want to learn how to use e-mail so they can talk with their grandkids,” said Secaucus High school senior Nicholas Mimikos, who volunteers as a S.A.I.L. tutor.
Computer workshops are offered once a month in the Middle School computer lab, where students are paired up with senior citizens to work one-on-one. Each workshop begins with students discussing with the seniors what computer skills they most want to learn or improve upon. For some seniors, the S.A.I.L. workshops are their first experience with computer technology.

Fosters volunteerism

Lee said last week that she launched the S.A.I.L. program this school year to give students “real world” opportunities to use what they’ve learned in the classroom, and to foster community service.
“The students are furthering their learning through their volunteer work,” Lee commented. “In addition to the computer work that the students do, we also have them work with the seniors on our Promethean Boards.”
Promethean Boards are interactive white boards that use the Internet and allow teachers to program lesson plans that have a student participation component.
“The students’ teachers are using the Promethean Boards in their own classrooms,” Lee said. “By allowing the student/tutors to use them in their tutoring work gives them greater confidence with this learning tool…The SAIL Program uses a ‘service-learning’ teaching model that’s terrific because it integrates community service with academic study to engage students and teaches civic responsibility.”
In addition, Lee believes the program helps students to think critically and solve problems, and a gives them a sense of purpose in the community. She also said it teaches them how to work with and serve the senior citizen population.
Students seem to agree.
“It felt good to help, not because I was getting anything out of it, but just to do something for someone else,” said Secaucus High School student Alexa Thatcher.
“I wanted to do something for the community, something that was really needed,” Mimikos, who plans to become a high school English teacher after college, commented. “With the S.A.I.L. Program, I feel like I’m giving back.”
“I watched [the students’] faces, I observed their interactions, and it was a truly genuine learning experience on so many different levels,” said Lee. “I was so proud of each and every one of these students and I know that every person in the room was having a feel good moment.”
As for the senior citizens who are discovering interactive white boards for the first time, Lee said, “Many of them were amazed about how far schools have come compared to back in their day. The best part is that this advanced technology which seems so inconceivable for them to use is exactly what our S.A.I.L. team plans on making a reality. We take baby steps but we will get there.”
The seniors, Lee noted, are excited not only to be crafting a new skill but also to interact closely with young people.
“It has a powerful impact. There are a lot of things on the computer that I am learning. Senior citizens can learn a lot through this program. It is upbeat and positive. This program is very, very helpful to those who cannot leave the house to shop or communicate,” said senior Fran Mastropietro.
The next senior tutoring program will be held on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Those interested should contact Learning Coordinator Stacey Lee at (201) 974-2022 or (201) 330-2034.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group