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Getting on board with high tech
GECAC, Best Buy offer free classes for kids & seniors
Tyler Gales uses his camera to take close up photos of flowers outside the Give Every Child a Chance technology bus during a session in the Best Buy parking lot. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Tyler Gales sauntered onto the Give Every Child a Chance bus in the parking lot of Best Buy with an ear-to-ear to grin.

It was the third day that the 11-year-old Brock Elliott student had shown up to participate in the free activities on the Technology Outreach Bus – a joint venture with Best Buy aimed at educating people on everything from basic Windows functions to how to upload and manipulate digital photos.

And with his blue Samsung camera in hand, Gales waited patiently until the next lesson from trained Best Buy staffers began as the last class of the day.

“It’s a lot of fun being here, and I want to learn how to upload pictures onto the internet,” Gales said. “Before I came here all that I knew how to do was point and click, and now I’ll be able to upload photos to places like MySpace. It’s pretty great that they’re putting this on, and I’m definitely planning on learning more about cameras.”

Since Tuesday, classes have been filtering through the big white bus – which has received sponsorship from the United Way, Kaiser Permanente, Consumer Protection Foundation, the Manteca Unified School District, Image Signs, Verizon, Kraft, Aram Solar, Mountain Valley Express, Manteca Trailer and Camper and Best Buy’s very own Geek Squad – learning about everything from how the basic personal computer functions to how to manipulate digital images in order to get the desired effect.

Best Buy’s Cameron Bashom – who not only works as a salesman on the floor but also teaches classes on Thursdays to help new computer users get acquainted with their machines – was on hand Thursday to help educate the kids in attendance on everything from depth perception on their camera to how to trim down photos in order to get the desired effect.

With a degree in Photoshop, Bashom was able to shed insight to photo manipulation that other instructors might not have had the experience to share – let alone break down on a level than an 11-year-old can understand.

“When you’re new to something like computers or digital cameras, it can be overwhelming,” Bashom said. “It’s only through experience and a little bit of guidance that you finally understand it, and that’s what we’re hoping to be able to do here today.”

According to GECAC Technology Outreach Director Kristina Van De Pol, the classes are for all age groups, and slots are still open for those who are interested in learning about personal computing, digital cameras, or the other elements that Best Buy professionals teach during their seminars.

“This is something that’s open to everyone from kids to seniors, and we’ve still got plenty of space left for people who want to get involved,” she said. “It’s a free program for the community, and the kids really seem to love it. We encourage anybody who has any questions to contact us to get involved while they still can.”

The computer outreach bus will be located in the Best Buy parking lot for the next two weeks.

Classes take place on Tuesdays (June 15 & 22), Wednesdays (June 9, 16 & 23), and Thursdays (June 10, 17 & 24). Classes for senior citizens and adults are from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. (Personal computer basics) and 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. (photo basics) each day. Classes for children featuring a kid’s camera camp are from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day. The kids’ camera camp is open to those in the fourth grade and up.

Also coming up on July 8, 15, 22, and 29 the bus will be parked outside the Manteca Library on Poplar Avenue to offer free Internet safety classes to kids.

The library sessions each day from 8:30 to 10:20 a.m. are for kids entering second and third grade; 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. for kids entering fourth and fifth grade; and noon to 1:30 p.m. for kids entering sixth and seventh grade.

To sign up for the free Best Buy sessions contact Kristina VanDePol at or call (209) 825-7003. For more information or to sign up for the free library session call Kristina at (209) 825-7003 or Ruthanne at (209) 456-6877.

During the school year the bus travels to different elementary campuses in the Manteca Unified School District. Sets of 10 students at a time receive two weeks of 45-minute lessons after school to learn everything from keyboarding and safe Internet surfing to mannerisms on line.

Surveys of GECAC students and parents showed that 84 percent of them had little or no access to computers beyond school.

That by far doesn’t reflect the overall school population but it does underscore that the students who need computer knowledge the most to succeed - those struggling from low-income families - aren’t getting enough help to learn the technology that is becoming more and more essential not just to get an education but also to secure a job that can support a household.

The Technology Outreach Program is a free program aimed at serving those in the first through fourth graders who have little or no access to computers.

An estimated 700 students access the bus each year throughout the Manteca Unified School District.