Youth Internet Masters' conference

More than 30 students from Stamford, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Danbury attended the First Youth Internet Masters’ conference held at Danbury’s Public Library on January 26, 2013.

As part of his vision to strengthen individuals, families and communities in Connecticut, German Cutz teaches computer technology to adults and youth with Youth Internet Masters (YIM), a web page design curriculum he developed. Cutz is associate extension educator for sustainable families and communities at the Fairfield County Extension Center in Bethel.

YIM evolved from a self-directed learning program for 4-H youth to a three-level classroom course in internet design, which reaches underserved Hispanic/Latino people of all ages. Nearly one hundred participants have finished YIM level 1; about 60 percent of them are adults. They self-report new confidence with computers in the workplace and at home. Some graduates have gone on to lead their own web design classes.

Cutz thinks the most important result of YIM is the bridge it builds between UConn and communities. He sees an underserved group who highly respects the name of UConn but does not know much about it. The first two levels of YIM uniquely bring UConn to Hispanics/Latinos in their native Spanish language. It gives adults, some of them without a high school education or fluency in English, a taste of college life.

An additional benefit of YIM is the way it promotes family communication. Many in the class enroll with relatives and discuss what they are learning when they get home. One student, a mother of three, told Cutz that she is now able to help her children with school projects using a computer.

Level 1 provides 30 hours of training in HTML and CSS, working with text and images. One former student, Edward Nino of Stamford, said, “Professor Cutz taught us the necessary tools and techniques that made learning web design easier to understand and implement.” Starting in October, Cutz is offering two weekly level 1 adult classes in Spanish.

In order to graduate from level 1, students need to build a 10-page website. So far, at least five students made websites for their own established businesses, which is an estimated savings of $3,000 for each website designed. For other students, like Segundo Remache of Danbury, YIM was their entrance to self-sustaining enterprise. In an evaluation of the course, Remache wrote, “Thanks to the University of Connecticut for helping me to become a professional in webpage design.”

The current level 2 class, which teaches JavaScript and animation, is so popular that 20 adults are willing to give up an evening each week to travel to Bethel or Stamford from several surrounding towns. Both levels 1 and 2 of YIM are available in Spanish and English. Currently, level 3 is in English only.

Teaching requires energy, but Cutz thinks the sacrifice is worth it. For example, he witnessed a transformation in one man, who seemed to lack direction in his life. Although this adult student had no secondary education, he quickly engaged in the YIM learning process. He stayed at home more evenings to work on the design projects. This resulted in increased interaction with his wife and baby, which pleased the man’s family and Cutz.

Cutz has over twenty years of experience in participatory curriculum development and implementation for marginalized and at-risk populations. His field experience is in both developed and developing countries. Several Spanish language newspapers, such as El Sol and Los Voz Hispana, featured his work with YIM.

By Patsy Evans