An Edinburgh teenager has been recognised by BT in a competition to find the UK's most inspiring and dedicated young internet tutors.
Terri Miller, 16, from Leith, was chosen as the overall UK winner and Internet Ranger of the Year for Scotland after coming up with the idea of running computer classes for disabled young people and older people at her local community centre.
The award judges noted Terri’s dedication to the cause in particular: she has been running the classes for two hours a week for well over a year, and has changed the lives of many in the process.
Terri was presented with her prize of a new laptop, £300 worth of vouchers and a certificate by BT Scotland director Brendan Dick and MP Mark Lazarowicz at Edinburgh’s Telford College today.
The BT Internet Rangers awards is an annual competition aimed at recognising young people who make a special effort to help others use and make the most of the internet. With more than nine million adults in the UK currently not online, it is part of BT’s ongoing commitment to tackle the digital divide under its Get IT Together campaign.
Terri, who has been using computers from a very young age, is modest about her achievements and was shocked to have won BT Internet Ranger of the Year.
She said: “I really didn’t expect to win at all, I was just doing what I could. In a way, giving other people the opportunity to experience what I experienced in terms of computer accessibility makes us all a bit more equal.”
Brendan Dick said: “It’s a privilege for BT to be able to recognise the great work Terri has done. She is clearly a remarkable young woman and an outstanding example to other young people.
“If you’ve never used a computer before or don’t have a clue about the possibilities of the internet, it can be very confusing. Terri has not just helped explain how to use computers and the internet, but has made it fun and relevant to those she has taught – and really helped improve their quality of life as a result. She has opened up new ways of communicating and access to the amazing source of information that the internet is.”
Terri’s cousin Connor Bryson has cerebral palsy, and she first came up with the idea of running the classes when it struck her just how much more involved in society people with disabilities could become if they were computer-savvy. She ran trial sessions at her school at first, before approaching the youth workers at her community centre to suggest the classes.
Terri started off by teaching her ‘students’ how to use word packages to write letters to each other, pairing the class off as penpals. From this she gained their confidence and started to broaden their experience to play games, look at search engines and find out information from the internet.
Terri also encouraged others to get involved in the teaching, having one of the parents who works in IT to give a lesson on internet safety. Alongside the formal classes, Terri and her friends go into family members’ homes to help them with any online issues they have, such as showing her grandma how to play bingo online, as her mobility is restricted.
Her lessons have had a big impact on her ‘students’, with 90 percent of them continuing with their learning and almost all of them now competent using word processing programmes, printers, searching the internet and sending emails. Indeed, 17-year-old Lilly-Ann Matthews, from Musselburgh, who attended the classes and has Downs Syndrome, credits Terri with “having made my life a little bit more enjoyable as I find it hard to communicate with people and being able to use the internet and send emails makes it easier.”
Terri was nominated by her close friend from school, Emma Stevens, who has recently moved to Australia with her family. Terri now plans to use her new laptop to keep in regular contact with Emma.
BT has been helping people to get online since 2002 by bringing the benefits of the internet to disadvantaged communities across the UK. Last year, the company invested in programmes that ranged from supporting BT volunteers working in schools and community organisations to working with organisations such as Age UK to help get older people online and become part of digital society.
The company’s latest campaign – Get IT Together – is focused on making it easier for people to help friends or family members get online with a suite of free resources. For more information on how to get involved in the campaign, visit www.bt.com/getittogether.
Anyone interested in becoming a BT Internet Ranger themselves, or learning more about the initiative, should visit www.btinternetrangers.co.uk
Notes to editors
Cameron Sanders, 16, from Bromley, was chosen as the Internet Ranger of the Year for England after changing his grandmother’s life by introducing her to the internet. Cameron was particularly commended for the patience and dedication he showed in teaching Lillian, his grandmother, whose knee replacement surgery left her housebound for some time. Lillian used to work at a local stamp shop and Cameron noticed how much easier it would be for her to contact suppliers and customers if she could use email. From this simple idea Cameron started to teach Lillian how to do her shopping online and use Skype to speak to friends and family. Cameron’s continuing help proved invaluable when Lillian had to undergo a complete knee replacement, which restricted her mobility. This had the potential to be very isolating, but being able to use the internet to connect with the outside world made a huge difference to her day to day life. Cameron said: “The best thing about teaching my nana how to use the computer was being able to give something back to her, because she’s given so much to me. It felt good to be helping my family.” Lillian is understandably proud of her grandson: “He helped me at a time of real need, teaching me how to do online shopping and he helps me out when I get confused and make mistakes.”
In Wales, Owen Thomas, 13, a pupil at Glan Afan Comprehensive School, was chosen as the national Internet Ranger of the Year for his help in teaching a group of 10 local pensioners – the Glan Afan Silver Surfers – to use the computer and surf the internet. When his teacher asked if anyone in the class was interested in helping with the Silver Surfers group, Owen’s love for computers and a desire to help people led him to stick his hand up. That was a year ago, and since then every Wednesday after school Owen and some schoolfriends have taught the group members, aged around 65 to 70, how to use the internet with confidence. Owen said: “As they gain more experience using the new technology, some of the Silver Surfers have been helping each other as well as getting help from myself and the others. They enjoy coming in on a Wednesday and some like having a chat about what they have done and who they have emailed. One of the silver surfers now does shopping online and finds it helps her a great deal.” Many of the group have found familiarisation with the internet has improved their quality of life – in particular in the way they are now able to use Facebook and email to keep in contact with friends and family.
Contact: BT Scotland press office
Phone: 0800 085 0660