Prep Talk

Michael Doliszny: Paving the Way for Computer Literacy

Posted January 29th, 2019

Eagle Scout Michael Doliszny makes connections.

When Doliszny appeared before the freeholder board Jan. 22, a year older, he was armed with over $14,000 in pledged donations and a $4,275 check. The funds were raised to help local veterans become computer literate.

It was Jan. 9, 2018 when the 18-year-old Ocean City resident first appeared before freeholders. Then 17, attired in his Troop 79 uniform, he explained Plug Find app, his Eagle Scout project, the app he freely gave to the county and chamber of commerce to link drivers of electric vehicles with charging stations.

Doliszny told the board that he was better informed about veterans needs after he contacted Johnny Walker of the Citizens/Veterans Advisory Committee. Further, he reflected on Memorial Day when he met with veterans who told him some of their trials and tribulations.

It was after those meetings that the senior at St. Augustine Prep began another project to connect veterans with services that could help them better their lives.

In his words, “Primarily, they talked about how they never learned how to use computers, and that society expects them to be tech-savvy, when in reality, no one has ever taught them. When I was on the phone with Mr. (Johnny) Walker, we talked about this issue more, with Mr. Walker explaining that veterans have trouble doing things like accessing their benefits and applying for jobs online. He said that it was a huge problem.

“It was then that I decided to come up with the idea of creating a computer skills course where older veterans and the elderly can learn how to use a computer, from everything down to the basics,” Doliszny continued.

After that, he contacted Maria Kellett, the dean of Atlantic Cape Community College campus in Court House. He started working with the college on a solution. He linked with Jacqui Hinker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Walker and Nelson Gonzalez of CVAC.

“I persuaded them to help me design a free computer skills course and rally veteran participation, and I then drafted the syllabus with an Atlantic Cape professor, Suzanne Haggerty,” Doliszny continued.

The course, set to start Feb. 23 at the Court House campus of Atlantic Cape Community College, will teach veterans how to use a computer; how to create and manage an email account; scan and save documents; how to find and apply for jobs online to improve their unemployment or underemployment status; and how to access and manage their own veteran benefits online.

Realizing everything, even a free program for veterans, comes with a cost, Doliszny set about to raise funds.

As freeholders listened, seeming spellbound by Doliszny’s presentation, he estimated the cost would be $50 per veteran for three sessions.

Well aware there are many veterans in the county, he said, “I set a pretty aggressive goal of trying to raise $10,000 within a period of a few short weeks. As of today, total for both received and pledged donations, I’m proud to let you know that I have managed to raise about $14,805 which includes a check for $4,275 which represents all received donations for CVAC to present to Freeholder Director (Gerald) Thornton.”

Doliszny presented the check to Thornton, who accepted it, then returned it and asked that it be given directly to CVAC for deposit.

The bulk of the donations, he said, ranged from $25 to $300, but there were several for $500 and $1,000.

As the group stood in the front of the meeting room for a photograph, Ocean City Councilman Robert Barr announced that the City of Ocean City, in conjunction with the Ocean City Free Public Library, had agreed to pledge an additional $1,000 towards the teen’s initiative to teach older veterans computer skills designed to improve their unemployment or underemployment status, along with a pledge of allowing CVAC to use the computer lab at the library to host some of the classes in the curriculum.

In recognition of Doliszny’s service to veterans, Jacqui Hinker of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs presented a certificate of appreciation for the computer skills training course and also presented him with a special coin from the VA as a thank you for his outreach.

Doliszny is one of 373 students nationwide to earn the Congressional Award, Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress in May 2017.

Further, he completed 570 public service hours serving Ocean City and the greater county area under the direction of the city’s Department of Community Services.

He wants to major in computer science, artificial intelligence, and computer engineering in college.

He is the son of Robert and Kristina Doliszny; he has a brother, Evan, 16, and twin sisters, Katherine and Lauren, 14.

Veterans interested in the free basic computer training course should contact Nelson Gonzalez at (609) 413-1451. Space is limited.