A Day at the DeWitty Center

Photo of volunteer with client.

AFN volunteer Malachi (right) helping a client.

Austin Free-Net’s DeWitty Center location is a lively hub of technological and professional advancement. In particular, the Job and Computer Learning Lab is an essential visit for community members to write or improve a resume, get an email account, or help in a job search.  More than 100 people a week visit with our qualified and approachable volunteers, ready to provide all of these services and more.

But don’t take our word on it: see for yourself. What’s an average day like at the DeWitty Center?

On a rainy Tuesday in late February, volunteer Malachi White sat at the ready to receive morning clients. The rain was slowing lab traffic—last week by this time the lab was packed, he said.

“I’ve only been here two weeks, but I feel like I’ve already got some good experience last week,” he smiled.

Originally from central Illinois, Malachi came to Austin to take an IT position with OnRamp, a company that specializes in data center operations. Programs in his grade school nurtured Malachi’s early interest in computer hardware, and by 7 or 8 years old he was taking apart and rebuilding computers. By high school, he was taking classes in resume development. But he was aware of his natural advantage, as many of his peers in school didn’t have a computer at home.

“There’s a learning curve that favors those using computers. The job application process has changed since I was a kid. It used to be you could just walk into a place and ask for an application. But now, if you do that they’ll tell you to go apply online. Even if you don’t have a computer, you need those skills.”

The first client of the day, a veteran from Temple named Toby Roberts, comes into the lab and overhears Malachi. He cannot help but agree with the sentiment.

“I’ll tell you, that’s all I know, how it used to be. I used to show up and show the boss how hard I can work, and I could get a job that way. But now you can’t do that anymore…now I realize the importance of a resume these days.”

As Toby and Malachi get to work revising Toby’s current resume, they discuss options to achieve his professional goals. Toby’s experience is in building maintenance, but he wants to find work in solid waste treatment. Using the Internet, Malachi helps Toby research venues that will accept his application. They refer to Austin Free-Net’s resume collection for ideas on redesigning Toby’s application, and customize it to the position he’s considering. Malachi facilitates as Toby plugs away on Microsoft Word, translating his skills and values to written word and assisting in the writing process. They set up a new email address together for Toby’s potential employers to contact him. Within an hour, Toby is one step closer to achieving his goals.

Helping Austin’s adults create or upgrade their resumes is but one of the things Austin Free-Net does. Our computer labs and basic computer training sessions are free to the public.  Continued support from donors and volunteers, such as you, truly does help put Austin’s own back to work.

For more information about Austin Free-Net and the Job and Computer Learning Lab at the DeWitty Center or volunteering to help, visit www.austinfree.net or call 512-236-8225.

By: Vickie Valadez, Austin Free-Net Volunteer