by Tiffany Hyman, Special to Left of Center
Do you find yourself frustrated trying to use a computer? Have you always wanted to learn how to use social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype, but never learned how to? If so, you just may be a candidate to participate in the all-new Net Cracker classes. Net Cracker teaches seniors basic computer skills while still having fun. The motto of the company is "Laugh while learning."
Formerly of Lewiston, Kim Tomaszewski, now a North Tonawanda resident, started the business two years ago. Tomaszewski began teaching in 2001. She taught a pre-kindergarten program for three years in Wilson and has since taught English at middle and high school levels at Barker and Oracle Charter Schools. In 2009, a friend recommended watching a documentary on an elderly man who taught his friend how to use a computer. Since she has a soft spot for the young and the elderly, Tomaszewski decided she wanted to teach seniors how to use computers.
Since she already had experience in education and individualized tutoring, Tomaszewski needed training in business management. She trained at the Buffalo-Niagara SCORE where she gained knowledge of the working business world. Buffalo-Niagara SCORE helps people to form a small or large business into an entrepreneurship.
"My friend showing me the video was one of the reasons I opened the business," said Tomaszewski. "The other reason was because of my mother. My mother always felt excluded and frustrated, especially after watching the news that would say for more information, log onto a website. Some people don't know what websites are."
The Net Cracker's doors opened in August 2009. The business' mission is to provide basic to moderate computer skills to seniors, all while having fun. Her interactive strategy has been a huge hit within Erie and Niagara County. She has received positive feedback from many clients, including Niagara-Wheatfield native Frank Iannarelli, and Niagara Falls native Dawn Hendricks. Her clients have requested that she write a book.
Iannarelli and Hendricks speak very highly of the Net Cracker owner and the program itself. Since attending the classes, they have not only mastered the basic computer skills, but additionally now know how to surf the Internet, send emails and even connect with old friends on Facebook.
"I started at ground zero," said Iannarelli. "I used to be computer illiterate, but these classes have really helped me."
"Net Cracker opened up a whole new world to me," added Hendricks.
The two clients were very impressed by not only the interactive, hands-on program, but also with Tomaszewski and her ample knowledge of computers.
"Kim was really helpful and got into the specifics," said Iannarelli.
"You couldn't find a better teacher than Kim," said Hendricks. "She is wonderful, patient and more than glad to answer any questions."
"I am very passionate about this," said an enthused Tomaszewski. "Seniors are so fun to work with."
Seniors in living facilities, centers and anyone in the community is welcomed to join Net Cracker. Tomaszewski teaches classes at the John Duke Center in Niagara Falls, the YWCA in North Tonawanda and at the Senior Center in Tonawanda. Classes will soon be available at the Senior Center in Newfane. The cost is $10 an hour per person and includes a "How To" guide. Groups should be no greater than five people. Laptops are provided to guests.