HILLSBORO - Pedro Estrada has an unusual New Year's resolution for a 17-year-old. The Portland native and member of the Oregon 4-H Web Wizards club in Washington County has resolved in 2003 to teach others how to build their own low-cost computers.
In January, Estrada will lead a small group of Hispanic adults and teens through the process of assembling a working computer from parts the group will purchase at local computer supply stores.
The class is a community technology leadership project Estrada is doing as a participant in the national AT&T Young Leaders Program. He is one of 18 young people throughout the country recognized by the program for their technology and leadership skills.
"This is a wonderful honor and recognition of Estrada's hard work to help others," said Lisa Conroy, 4-H faculty in the Washington County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service. "The teaching project he's planning in January will address a huge need in Washington County's Hispanic community."
The AT&T Young Leaders Program annually selects a group of high-school age youth that are actively involved in helping others at Community Technology Centers around the country. Estrada has been volunteering over the past year at Centro Cultural, a non-profit community technology center in Cornelius.
A high school junior, Estrada is already an experienced instructor. He has taught several computer literacy courses to Hispanic adults as part of his activities in the 4-H Web Wizards club. Club organizers Conroy and Cecilia Giron nominated Estrada for the AT&T Young Leaders Program.
"Many Hispanics in this area want to buy a home computer but they can't afford it," said Estrada. "If I can help a few people learn how to build a low-cost computer, they can help others to do the same thing and more will have a chance to learn about computers.
"I see a lot of people around me who work in the fields, in restaurants or in offices that could do a lot more if they could use computers," he added. "Knowing about this technology is like opening a door to more opportunities."
Estrada arrived in the United States from Guatemala in 1992. He started learning about computer technology at Wilson High School in Portland. After completing several computer classes, he was invited to help his instructors build a computer lab at Forest Grove High School. He joined the Web Wizards 4-H club last spring to learn more about web-related software and web page design.
"Web Wizards really helped me understand how web pages work and how I can use them," Estrada said. "As a club member, I also got to work with mentors from Intel Corp. [members of the Intel Latino Network in Washington County] who helped us with club projects."
New members in the Web Wizards 4-H Club are required to contribute 15 hours of community service teaching others about computers.
"The teaching component of the club really helps the kids with self-esteem and in being more confident about what they can accomplish," said Conroy.
Estrada agrees. "When I started my 15 hours of payback time teaching computer literacy to others, I wasn't sure I could do it," he said. "Then I began to enjoy the teaching and I realized that this is an important way to help in the community."
Estrada plans to start with five students in his computer-building course and will work with volunteer bilingual mentors from Intel Corp.
"We'll see how it goes and if everything works out we'll invite more learners to participate in the class," said Estrada. "I want to continue as long as there are people there who want to learn."
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Lisa Conroy, 503-725-1315