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Local high school students develop social media classes for Ashby Ponds community members

Created date

July 31st, 2017
High school student Yousuf Barekzay working one-on-one with a community member.

Yousuf Barekzay works one on one with community members to answer a variety of technology-based questions.

Recently, students from Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va., created and led a series of classes on social media applications for community members at Ashby Ponds, a nearby Erickson Living community.  The series, entitled “Posting at the Ponds,” began as a community service project for the students but quickly became a much more meaningful endeavor.

“The classes were wonderful,” says community member Nan Krueger. A strong proponent of keeping up to date on technology, Nan assists her fellow residents by offering iPad instruction. 

“There are so many benefits to using social media, especially when it comes to keeping in touch with family, primarily grandchildren,” she says. “The students who led the classes are terrific. They really care about teaching and making everyone comfortable with social media.”   

The start of something great

The idea for the social media classes grew out of conversations between Broad Run students Yousuf Barekzay, Alexis Potak, and Laith Mekousar (who work as servers in the Ashby Ponds restaurants) and Ashby Ponds community members. During these casual dinnertime conversations, they discovered that the residents wanted to learn more about social media applications. 

As members of DECA, an international association of high school and college students designed to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs, the trio strongly believed that creating a program designed to educate residents in a variety of social media applications would provide them with the instruction they desired while also fulfilling DECA’s community service requirements.

The trio, along with three additional Broad Run students, Natalie Smithers, Isha Desal, and Madison Guyton, organized a series of classes with the approval of Ashby Ponds staff. Nan Krueger served as the student’s resident sponsor.

“I was thrilled to help them with their project,” says Nan. “The students put a lot of time and effort into the project, and the residents really appreciate the effort.” 

“We were all very excited about the classes,” says Barekzay. “We enjoy helping the residents and giving back to our local community, especially since social media and technology is something that we, and other teenagers, are passionate about.”

Getting started

Once the student’s project received the seal of approval from their Broad Run teachers, they held their first class, about email and Facebook, in an Ashby Ponds classroom.

“Many more people than we anticipated showed up for the first class,” says Ashby Ponds community member Marilyn Silvey. “That really showed us how much residents wanted to learn from these students.”

As a result, the following presentations were held in the performing arts theater, accommodating more than a hundred residents at each session. These sessions introduced community members to Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, and Pinterest. 

“We taught the residents using slideshows and projected the screen to show the specifics about each social media,” says Barekzay. “At the end of the lesson we answered questions and worked with groups of residents to help install social media on their devices and solve technological difficulties.” 

Just the beginning

Since the program’s successful completion, the students continue to visit Ashby Ponds monthly for one-on-one consultations with community members. As board members of the Broad Run Key Club, the oldest and one of the largest service programs for high school students, Barekzay and Desal lead the effort in partnership with Marilyn Silvey.

“We advertised the workshop to our Key Club members, and many students were excited to sign up and volunteer with us,” says Barekzay. “Members of this club are continually looking for opportunities to serve the community. Since this program was created by us, many of our friends wanted to help out.” 

After a short summer hiatus, Barekzay and Desal will continue the monthly workshops beginning in September.  

“We are very excited,” says Desal. “We believe the residents benefitted greatly from the classes because they continue to come back to the workshops to learn more and further advance their skills. The best feeling is seeing the residents get excited about social media and technology when they get to communicate with their friends and family inside and outside of the Ashby Ponds community.” 

Unexpected gift

As a result of their hard work, creativity, and dedication, the students recently won sixth place for “Posting on the Ponds” at the Virginia DECA State Leadership Conference, earning a competitive spot at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif. 

“We couldn’t be happier for these students,” says Marilyn. “Their knowledge is inspiring, but it is their patience and dedication that we appreciate the most.”

For the students, the recognition is wonderful, but it is not the reason for their continued dedication.

“Connecting the residents to the rest of the world and empowering them by giving them a voice in their community is something that gives us the most pride,” says Barekzay.