Jake Motyl’s grandparents lived through the Holocaust. He’s learned a lot from them.
Jake is proud that he’s able to teach them something in return: technology.
With his help, his grandparents in Washington, DC and Florida now use FaceTime, Facebook and Skype to stay in touch with the Staples High School rising junior and his family.
But Jake did not stop there. This summer, he and his friends took their expertise to the Senior Center. Twice a week — under the name “SMORES,” and with help from program manager Holly Betts — they offered free sessions. From iPhones and iPads to alarm clocks (yes, alarm clocks) they demystified the process of connecting with today’s world.
“They teach us a lot. I’m glad I can teach them,” Jake — who, in his spare time, is a varsity tennis and squash player, and member of Staples’ Service League of Boys — says of his “students.”
He and Josh Suggs, Sam Seideman, Eli Herman, Phoebe Miller and Caroline Motyl — Jake’s younger sister — have had an eventful summer.
They helped set up tablets. They taught a woman having trouble typing on her phone how to use Siri (she, in turn, taught her husband). They showed people how to open photos online. They answered questions about email, and the functions of all those mysterious icons.
The man who brought in his alarm clock — hey, anyone who has tried to use one in a hotel knows how confusing they now are — learned how to set the alarm on his iPhone. “He was amazed,” Jake says.
Working with older men and women is an act of joy for Jake. “They helped build this community,” he says. “It’s so gratifying to help them. We can really empower them, to stay connected.”
Phoebe Miller and Caroline Motyl take a break from teaching and learning. In the background, Jake Motyl helps out.
Teaching comes naturally to him. In fact, he says, he may go into education as a career.
Jake’s friends have talents beyond technology. Josh gave a lecture at the Senior Center on cryptocurrency. Sam is an accomplished cook.
“Westport teens get a bad rep,” Jake says. “I want to change that. My friends and I really like helping. And I think everyone learns a lot.”
Sam Seideman demystifies an iPhone.
When the school year starts, SMORES will probably move to 3-5 p.m. on Mondays. They hope teenagers in other towns pick up the concept, and start similar programs.
(From left): Holly Betts, Jake Motyl, Sam Seideman, Josh Suggs and Eli Herman, outside the Senior Center.
It’s a great idea. So what about the name?
“We wanted something creative — not just Tech Help or something like that,” Jake says. SMORES stands for Social Media OutReach EducatorS.
And whether you’re a young digital native or a senior citizen, everyone loves S’mores.
(There are many ways to learn more about SMORES. Click here for the website; for more information, click “Contact Us” at the top of that page. You can also email email@example.com. Jake encourages people to book sessions for their parents and grandparents in Westport.)