Mobile classroom teaching computer skills across Kansas

Main Street Kansas

STAFFORD, Kan. (KSNW) – “How we doing, folks? Good?” asked Justin Rupert, as he walked by several seniors working on computers.

He is both teacher and driver.

“I’ve got all my badges– heavy wind, heavy fog, snow, ice,” said Rupert, smiling and shaking his head.

The Goodwill employee drives a large bus, a mobile classroom, all across Kansas.

Today, he’s in the town of Stafford, population 968.

Many of his students are beginners.

“I could play solitaire and games like that,” said James Twombly. “That’s about it.”

Ten students can attend a Learn IT class.

“The little bit I know, I taught myself,” said grandmother, Alda Hildebrand.

But they want to do more online.

“I want to know how to do a spreadsheet,” said Twombly. “I also want to do banking online and pay my taxes and stuff like that online.”

More than just a convenience, it’s a vital connection for rural Kansas, where people sometimes feel isolated.

“I think small towns need the accessibility to learn new technology skills because of jobs,” said librarian, Denise Dickson, who invited Goodwill to town.

“Just for example, think about trying to apply for a job, if you don’t have digital skills,” said Rupert. “It’s pretty rare anymore that you could walk in and hand in your resume or paper application.”

That’s why Goodwill used a grant from Google last year to create the Learn IT Lab with 11 handicapped-accessible work stations. Every week in a different town, free lessons are offered on everything from social media to Microsoft Excel.

“It’s not just for people who have never touched a mouse,” said Rupert. “It’s for people looking to advance in their careers. We want to address whatever that community needs so what’s the major employer in Stafford? What are they looking for in terms of employees, and how can we address that?”

Classes range from social media and apps to Microsoft Word and Excel.

Even Mayor Julie Lyon is brushing up on her skills with Microsoft Word. She sees potential for boosting employment.

“There’s a lot more remote work opportunities so maybe you’re not wanting to commute but you’re able to get a job from home,” said Lyon.

Those who don’t have a computer at home can still use one at their local library, practicing what they’ve learned.

“You don’t feel like a dummy all the time!” said Twombly, grinning.

This was the second time the Learn IT Lab taught classes in Stafford, building on what some students learned in the first session.

To schedule a stop where you live, contact Justin Rupert at 316-677-1784 or jrupert@goodwillks.org.

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