The Microsoft Corp. announced earlier this year that one billion people worldwide now use an office suite of desktop applications called Microsoft Office.
Fifteen students from Darby's Park Lane Elementary School have been taught those applications, thanks to officials from Verizon. For six weeks, volunteers from Verizon, along with Park Lane staff members, provided students introductory lessons on Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel software.
“We began coordinating this program six months ago,” said Arnold Coleman, international director of community outreach programs for Verizon.
Coleman, born and raised in Darby and a former star student-athlete at Darby-Colwyn High School, has a strong association with Park Lane. His father once worked at the school as its head janitor and his wife, Karen, currently teaches second grade there.
“I travel all over the world managing educational programs like this, and for years my wife said that we should do a program in our own community,” Coleman said.
Six months ago he began to communicate with William Penn School District Superintendent, Joseph Bruni and Park Lane Principal Wayne Rodriguez about what Verizon could do to enrich students’ learning. Conducting the computer skills development program, which took place on Saturdays, was one of the ideas they discussed.
Coleman and one of Verizon’s vice presidents of IT, Anthony Dragoni, created the program 10 years ago at a school in Maryland. Now Verizon sponsors 30 similar programs on in locations including India, England and throughout South America.
Various business units contribute to funding the outreach efforts that have proven to be rewarding and worthwhile, he said.
“What I do here is the favorite part of my job, it gets me most excited,” Dragoni told the students and parents during the program’s recent closing ceremony.
Set to retire next month after 37 years of service, Drangoni was impressed with what he experienced at Park Lane.
“This is the best partnership we've had,” he said. “They’re very well organized and it’s always great to see parents engaged and involved.”
A native of Ridley, Dragoni said he was “floored by what you (the students) did today. Your presentations were well thought out.
Each student presented what was learned during the closing ceremony, using the technological and soft skills acquired. Using memory sticks donated by Verizon, the students shared what they learned during the program.
Fourth-grader Oluwafumbi Fowowe said he thought the program was “a good opportunity to learn something I never heard of. It will help me to get a scholarship and have a better future.”
Liam Flaherty, a sixth-grader from Darby, said he was “going to help my mom while she's going to college at Delco Community. She takes a public speaking class and I'm going to help her out.”
Each student received a framed certificate from Verizon, which also donated 30 new laptops to Park Lane’s computer lab.
Rodriquez expressed his gratitude to the Verizon executives on behalf of the students.
“We truly appreciate what Mr. Coleman, Mr. Dragoni and the volunteer instructors have done for our students,” he said. “It is quite obvious that the students learned a lot.”
Albert Mukuma, a former Verizon employee and one of the program’s instructors, echoed Rodriguez’s sentiments.
“This is a wonderful program and I’m glad to be involved,” he said.
Mukuma, a New Jersey resident, also thanked Dragoni for his influence on his personal career in addition to changing the lives of many young people.
Program manager and lead instructor Samuel Randolph drove from Delaware each Saturday to “do this because it’s a good thing.”
“The students looked forward to coming in on Saturday,” said project coordinator and fourth-grade teacher Michelle Carey. “It’s good for them to speak publicly and in front of their peers, using the skills they obtained over a few weeks.”