By Mary McClements, Coordinator of Academic Services-Career Training Programs at CCV

‘Balance’ is a great buzz word these days, in my opinion, especially because I don’t have it often enough. We hear this message on the news, and we see it in magazines, in newspapers, and in articles on the internet. These sources ask us questions and give us (sometimes not so easily attainable) answers on how to better BALANCE our lives. BALANCE, so we have more enjoyable time with our families. BALANCE, so our health doesn’t suffer. BALANCE, so we feel less stress and feel more in control of our lives.

Often when we think of balance, we think of exercising, eating enough of the right foods, having social outlets, and engaging in quality family time. We don’t often think of internet use as assisting with balance, but in fact we think of it as doing just the opposite. Our lives can easily become unbalanced if we’re on the internet too often, and not doing those healthy activities mentioned before. But what about those individuals who have NO internet experience and thus don’t have the powerful tools accessible through the internet to give them balance? Polls have shown that almost 20% of Vermonters don’t have an internet connection at home and of course there are millions of people around the world with no internet knowledge or access to the internet. These individuals are not able to apply for jobs online, apply for benefits if need be, have email accounts, Skype grandchildren, read the news online, fill out online data or registration forms, or complete a host of other tasks that internet users often take for granted. These types of tasks can take up an inordinate amount of time, or may not be achievable at all, if not conducted with the help of the internet. Use of and access to the internet can, in fact, bring us some balance when we use it to help ourselves.

The other day as I drove into work, I was thinking about the Community College of Vermont Internet Interns who help Vermont library patrons become comfortable with and learn the basics of the internet. I thought about how they must bring balance to their own lives as students, parents, job holders, partners, and active community and church members, and also how they bring balance to those individuals who have either very little or no internet experience. I like to think of our CCV internet interns not only as sharing knowledge on how to maneuver the internet in a way that is useful in daily life, but also as individuals who open doors for people to help them create the balance that they might not have had before they walked into their local libraries.

A great example of one of our CCV students assisting someone in gaining more balance comes from an internet intern in this account:

Leon (name changed) came to me needing help to find out information regarding a power of attorney so his wife of 65 years could have access to his annuities, God forbid anything should happen. We spent two hours researching the best method in which to approach this situation and found a wonderful website that allowed him to draw up his own power of attorney. We also found him a reputable lawyer in town as a backup in case the bank did not accept the agreement he drew up. Leon left very happy, and plans on coming back for more help with his computer needs.”

Another wonderful example shows how someone gained more balance in his life as a new citizen of Vermont:

Bobok (name changed) is new to the United States, and is in the process of learning English. I helped him find a great website that enabled him to download videos about learning to speak English so he could watch them later at his home where he does not have the use of internet. Bobok was extremely grateful for the time I spent with him. I hope to be able to help and encourage him to learn the language better.”

These two people and many more like them, through the help of the CCV internet interns, were able to incorporate more BALANCE and thus take more control of their lives, and ultimately creating less stress. I’d like to send out kudos to our internet interns: Justin, Ian, Lauren, Blake, Kelli, Amber, Domenic, Charles, and Kai, who are students, employees, parents, active community members, volunteers, athletes, farmer’s wives, facilitators and performers of the constant balancing act both in their role as internet interns, and, I am sure, outside of it as well.