Jarvis Cannon is giving his Hispanic community confidence to succeed in our tech-dependent world.
“There’s a stereotype that if you can’t speak English, you’re not smart. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, my adult students are highly skilled, eager to learn, and they inspire me beyond words.”
A 9-year V Teamer who works in account management for Business, Customer and Government Operations, Jarvis Cannon volunteers with LaAmistad, Inc. whose mission is to empower members of the Latino community in Atlanta, Georgia, through academic and life-enrichment programs. After his wife started teaching in the organization’s three-year “English for a Successful Living” (ESL) program, Jarvis found a fit teaching students in their final 20 weeks of the program.
As Jarvis started teaching, he breezed through the original curriculum which he felt was heavy on textbook English. “The students want a practical understanding of the language,” he explains. “One student said that he just wanted to understand what was being said about his kids during parent-teacher conferences. Another simply wanted to understand the English being spoken around him.”
At the same time, Jarvis realized that the existing technology lessons assumed too much. He cited an example of a lesson about creating a resume. “It seems simple but I uncovered a fundamental issue,” he recalls. “While my class included architects, truck drivers and even lawyers, when I asked them how they applied for their jobs, many shared that their kids built and submitted their resumes online.”
Jarvis’ cause: Designing for digital inclusion.
Jarvis reflects on the bigger picture and opportunity to help bridge the digital divide for his students. Noting that 20 years ago tech competence was judged by the basic ability to use a computer, he believes that in parts of our communities it’s still a relevant measure.
“Everyone in my class knows that their jobs require some level of technology skills but they thought they were hopeless cases. So I’m helping them learn the basics, how to turn on—and use—a computer.”
Drawing on his background in technology and instructional design, Jarvis proposed an amended curriculum on learning everyday English words and concepts, which included assignments like building a household budget using Microsoft Excel, designing flyers in Microsoft Word, and learning how emails are sent across the internet. LaAmistad’s director bought in quickly.
The goal was to give students a strong foundation in both English and technology. Once the students started learning, “they wanted to know more, and they saw more possibilities for themselves,” Jarvis shares.
Over his one year with LaAmistad, Jarvis has supported 15 students to graduate. “They’re excited to leave with some computer knowledge and confidence in knowing how to apply for jobs, research topics and tackle whatever else they desire. What drives me is that the students are so committed to the program and just want a chance to learn. English couldn’t be a barrier.”
Reaching deeper into his community.
Jarvis’ curriculum for his students at LaAmistad is benefitting more in his community. He and his wife have co-founded a non-profit aimed at teaching adults basic computer skills.
Jarvis’ organization has formed strategic alliances with Goodwill of North Georgia, the Fulton County Library System and the Aviation Community Cultural Center, each of which offer workshops for adults to learn technology. “We help adults with low skills so they can benefit from improved employment opportunities and enhanced family life.” Jarvis and his wife voluntarily visited each location to help close the gap. There’s been so much success that the Aviation Community Cultural Center plans to serve as the central brick-and-mortar hub for Jarvis to deliver training in the community.
“It’s been amazing to see the response to something I started to think about 19 years ago when I was at IBM,” says Jarvis. “At that time I volunteered to help adults learn how to turn on a computer. It was the big social mission and it’s difficult to believe that the same need and skill gaps exist today.”
Always looking forward, Jarvis ponders, “I don’t know what the basic knowledge point will be 20 years from now. All I know is that I’m committed to helping my community not fall behind nor let English be a barrier. I love what I do and as far as I'm concerned, I'm just getting started.”