Teen Tech Tutors teaching tutus

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“They are so helpful, their young minds are so sharp,” said Linda Mendonca of Waimea after a session with the “Teen Tech Tutors” on Sunday at St. James Church’s Ohana James Spencer Building. “In five minutes with him I learned so much. And they are so patient, they make it easy.”

Teen Tech Tutors, or TTT,of are “digital natives,” savvy young people who know their stuff, as far as computers, smart phones, Kindles and other devices, and enjoy sharing that knowledge with seniors. The core group, Maia Tarnas from Parker School, Michaelangelo McPeek from Kamehameha Schools, and Lei Bostock, Tali Patolo, Cannon Greco-Hiranaka and Ryan Fitzgerald from Hawaii Preparatory Academy, give of their time and expertise, one-on-one, Sundays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on a drop-in basis.

“We have all this sophisticated technology and use, what, 10 percent of it?” said Deacon “Dr. Beachcomb” Ritterbush, who created and helps head up the group, with Zumba teacher Marilyn Fitzgerald. “The tutors teach in half-hour increments, then let them go and practice, so it’s easier to retain more of the training.”

“I learned some of the technology on my Smart Phone,” said Victor Obrastoff of Waimea. “I worked with Tali, and he is very good about handing the phone back to you and having you go through the mechanics of it … I learned how to transfer apps and how to find the apps I need.”

“It’s wonderful seeing the seniors and teens together. The seniors are grounding for them, and the kids are patient, and non-judgmental,” said Ritterbush.

Some of the tutors and their students know each other from attending church at St. James, some are friends through Zumba, other youth pitch in when they can.

“It’s a cohort of very bright kids,” said Ritterbush. “And we are so grateful to Father David Stout, the Youth Leaders and the parish for their generous support and facilities. Without that we would not have gotten Teen Tech Tutors off the ground.”

“We are looking for a grant to set up a summer paid intern program,” said Ritterbush. “We would love to be able to actually pay the kids, and match that with college money,” Preliminary planning is also underway to expand the TTT program to include more teens, and add programs in Honokaa, North Kohala and Waikoloa.

“I got my very first iPhone in January and figured out how to phone people and take pictures … but what happened from there was a mystery to me,” said Bonnie Nunke of Kohala, “Ryan showed me how to set up an album, send photos … These guys are like superheroes to me!”

Ritterbush is an author, anthropologist and sustainable development strategist for national and international agencies and island states. She conducts large scale as well as local beachcombing workshops, and is presently working on a Weaving Symposium May 3-4 at HPA. For more information, on the Weaving Symposium, call North Hawaii Education and Research Center, 775-8890.

To learn more about the Teen Tech Tutors, email drbeachcomb@gmail.com or call Deacon Ritterbush at (443) 995-5566.