Shayla Young, 13, of Springfield, Virginia, a seventh-grader at Irving Middle School, conducted a workshop last year to help residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) in Washington, D.C., learn how to make better use of their cell phones. Shayla began volunteering at the AFRH when she was 6 years old, as her father was preparing to retire from the Army. Last year, she noticed how difficult it was for some of the veterans there to use technology. “I recognized the struggles that residents were having when using their cell phones,” Shayla said. “A lot of the residents are in their 90s, with poor vision and poor hearing.” Shayla knew she could help, and came up with the idea of bringing some of her tech-savvy peers to the home to teach the seniors the secrets of getting the most out of their cell phones.
After obtaining permission from officials at the retirement home, Shayla recruited a group of student instructors and created a poster to advertise her workshop. On the day of the event, 11 residents showed up to listen to the young people explain various functions of their cell phones, including how to increase font size, adjust volume and brightness, use password protection, save contacts and link their phones to their email accounts. “The residents were very appreciative of us coming out to help them,” said Shayla. “Now they are able to use their phones more effectively.” She said she is already planning another workshop to educate additional residents, and to show them how to use the alarm function on their cell phone calendars to remind themselves when to take their medications or when they have doctor appointments. In addition to her cell phone coaching, Shayla has used her birthday gifts, Christmas presents and other personal funds to donate more than $5,000 worth of goods to organizations including the AFRH.