In honor of Volunteer Appreciation week, Laradon is excited to celebrate our volunteers and the programs we have that benefit from volunteers!
We had the opportunity to sit down with Keenan White, the assistant director of digital literacy at Laradon, to chat about how volunteers are helping the program expand.
What is the Laradon Digital Literacy Program?
White: At Laradon, the Digital Literacy Program is really focused on two things right now: digital learning and digital equity. From a learning standpoint, it’s focused on building foundational skills and access points, so that students in the school and adults in the Day Program and work teams have the skills and abilities to access technology and engage in digital spaces. And that can be pretty diverse in terms of what that learning looks like, based on the abilities of the people we work with.
From an equity standpoint, that’s really just making sure people have equitable access to digital resources. Even internally, that might be making sure that one program has access to iPads and Chromebooks, while another program might need something different. It’s making sure people have the tools and resources they need to be engaged. The other big part of it is helping staff with their needs and requests. That might be helping a teacher bring interactive content into their classroom, it might look like doing a training for how to use online tools more effectively. It’s definitely a wide range of things.
Why is digital literacy important for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities?
White: It comes down to equity and quality of life aspects. Not having access to digital resources or opportunities to use computers definitely puts you at a disadvantage, from employment, recreation, and community standpoints. So many of these tools are really critical for people being able to engage in their peer groups and to access information. Digital literacy makes life a little better. People feel more connected and engaged when they can access those experiences.
We do a lot of digital art and other creative things in our program here, as well, which is really cool. It provides an outlet for expression and interaction that many of the folks that we work with would not have otherwise.
What role do volunteers play? How can they help expand the Digital Literacy Program?
White: The biggest thing that comes to mind is that there are so many aspects of digital literacy. For me, as one person, I have to be really mindful of how I’m organizing my time. So even with one volunteer, it’s been a huge help knowing that someone can come in and help manage the infrastructure of the program. There is a lot of back-end support that is required for the digital tools that we use, and it can be really time consuming. It’s something that my current volunteer really loves to do, so it saves time and keeps us more organized. It’s really nice from a collaboration standpoint, because there’s a lot to learn from other people who use technology differently.
From an expansion standpoint, there are a lot of people that work in technology that are comfortable doing a lot of the things that we’re doing at Laradon, but don’t realize how they can help. That could be sitting with somebody and helping them draft an email or explaining to somebody some basic support for how to type more effectively. I think a lot of people just don’t understand some of the foundational skills that a lot of our folks need support and guidance with, which they could absolutely help with. I think it would be really great to have more people here that can build relationships with the people we’re supporting.
Any other thoughts on why volunteers are important?
White: I think community connection and involvement is just important in general. So whether it’s digital learning or other aspects of our organization, we want our community members, our staff, and the individuals we support to feel like they’re part of a larger community. I think volunteers really help to expand that. Volunteers can really broaden the scope of who people get to know, who they’re working with, and even connections outside of Laradon, as well.
I see volunteers as a way to grow the Laradon community and build more connection points for everybody, whether that staff, or people in the school and adult program. These are spaces that, historically, have been pretty isolating, so it’s nice to see Laradon investing in opportunities that can bolster our community.