McGrath Celebrates Two Decades of Service to Aiken

Aiken, SC (05/06/2019) — A small army of dedicated volunteers has worked for two decades, training area adults on how to successfully use emerging technology in their own homes.

Whether it's personal computers, laptops, IPads, cell phones or any other personal device, the McGrath Computer Learning Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina Aiken helps area users navigate the ever changing technology.

"Although the technology and curriculum continue to change, McGrath will always keep to their core goals of adults teaching adults in small classes with lots of individual attention," said Nancy Hughes, director of marketing for McGrath.

"We are proud to be celebrating our 20th anniversary and plan to keep going for at least 20 more years."

A full list of classes offered and registration information, can be found at: mcgrathclc.com.

The Learning Center, which has become a community mainstay resource, first opened its doors in 1999, when personal computers were starting to be used in homes, not just in the business environment.

"People who were already retired and those who did not work outside the home tended to miss the computer age tidal wave but seemed to recognize that personal computers were here to stay," said Ginny Rafferty, curriculum coordinator for the Learning Center.

"They wanted an opportunity to learn about and participate in the technology age."

Realizing this desire - which has evolved into almost a basic need in society today -- Bruce McGrath, who founded and chaired the Aiken Computer Club, started exploring how they might provide basic computer training to seniors in Aiken. McGrath discovered a national organization called SeniorNet who did just that.

The Aiken branch of SeniorNet recruited and trained volunteer instructors and coaches and partnered with USC Aiken. Through a longstanding agreement, the university provides the classroom and infrastructure support for the effort.

"It was a wonderful collaboration," said George Heh, instructor.

In the beginning, the focus of the training was to introduce seniors to personal computers. All of the courses offered were at the beginner's level. Classes were, and continue to be, small -- no more than 10 students -- with lots of individualized attention.

Since then, the program has evolved and expanded to include training for all adults, not just seniors. It is now an independent organization, known as the McGrath Computer Learning Center, which is no longer affiliated with SeniorNet.

"As an independent organization we can be much more responsive to the Aiken community's needs and wants," said Ralph Dale, director of technology.

As a result of student feedback, McGrath started offering intermediate and advanced courses. Later, as technology grew, McGrath again responded by offering courses related to phone and tablet usage. More recently, the Learning Center added courses specifically on Apple technology.

Team McGrath is the group's latest effort.

"The focus of Team McGrath is to provide a support group for our greatest asset - our volunteers," said Hughes.

"The focus is strengthening the skills and collaboration of the volunteers by learning from each other and encouraging team teaching."

Despite the constantly changing technology, the vision and mission of the McGrath Computer Learning Center remains steadfast: provide relevant instruction, offer individualized attention, and keep up with technological trends and updates.

"We believe in the critical service we provide, and we look forward to continuing to support our friends and neighbors in the community for at least 20 more years," said Wayne Rickman, executive director of the McGrath Computer Learning Center.

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Mcgrath 20 year

Original members of the McGrath Computer Learning Center team include, from left, Will Hills, Bill Hayes, Lynn Mullins, Dave Emory, Sara Wampole and Geraldyne Bradham. They have supported the efforts of McGrath for two decades.