Computer club gives youths education, entertainment

July 03, 1996|By Alex Gordon | Alex Gordon,SUN STAFF

Seven-year-olds Meggy Breihan and Lucy Pompa gaze wide-eyed at the computer screen as they embark by wagon along the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail.

"It's fun," Meggy says of the simulated journey through history. "Especially learning about the old days and what people used to do."

This summer will be an unusual and exciting one for Meggy, who has cerebral palsy.

She is one of 12 youngsters participating this week in a computer club for children with and without disabilities at the LINC (Learning Independence Through Computers Inc.) Resource Center, at 28 E. Ostend St. in Baltimore.

The program, which began June 24 and ends today, is in its fourth year. It pairs children, disabled and not disabled, with volunteers.

"Computers are an activity that the kids can do together," says Mary Salkever, executive director of LINC. "It puts them on equal footing."

Even adult volunteers remark on the insight they gain into both the children and the computers.

"I'm surprised how much I've learned from the kids -- it's great to notice the improvement in the kids," says Laura Pisciotta, a second-year graduate speech pathology student at Loyola College and LINC volunteer. "Atari was the toughest thing I had growing up."

Across the room, Lucy's brother Max, 9, and Nathan Paluzzi, 10 -- who has impaired vision -- explore an entertaining math workshop on the computer.

"It's cool because you can learn math if you don't know it," says Max. "It's a little funner than math in school because you get to do exciting stuff."

Children must apply to the program, which carries an enrollment fee but also offers scholarships, Salkever says. The LINC coordinators select the computer programs, some of them mainstream and others designed for the disabled, she says.

Meggy and Lucy's trek along the Oregon Trail is put on hold as the children switch computers to experience the array of programs. The girls will transform from farmers journeying westward to super sleuths on the trail of criminals in "Carmen San Diego."

Meggy doesn't mind because, she says, she just enjoys it all.

"It's weird," she says, smiling with anticipation. "All these computer games you haven't played before -- it's like 'wow.' "

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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