Over the six years that Michelle Sanchez has worked as a technology trainer for Senior Planet in NYC, she has mastered the art of making people feel comfortable while they try something new. She’ll often tell her students or – as she would call them – her family, “let’s get frustrated together.”
Outside of work, Michelle is a devoted mother of two who volunteers at her kids’ school to connect other parents with resources for kids with disabilities. We talked with Michelle about her time at Senior Planet, the Spanish Club and how she’s celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with pride.
What’s your favorite part of being a Senior Planet trainer?
All these students, all these beautiful people, come to Senior Planet to learn about technology because often as older adults they feel left out – like technology is taking over. But with the help of our classes, they can go to the doctor and use a tablet to sign in. Or go to their center and be able to use a computer to send an email to family and friends. That is what makes me happy – that they are actually learning and that they continue to learn.
I always tell them, “I’m just here for a little bit – you have to continue on your own.” And they do! I know because they stay in touch with me. The love is mutual.
The love is mutual.
What is like running the Spanish Club?
It’s grown so fast! The club started virtually with 3 or 5 people and now we’re hybrid and get 25 or 30 people every week. The participants are always spreading the word about it and bragging about how great it is. I have people from all around the world joining – people from Panama, Brazil, Minnesota, everywhere.
What would a typical Spanish Club session look like?
Every week is different but we always have a discussion topic so they can learn the language and practice new vocabulary. Some weeks are more about grammar or verbs but one week we did karaoke. We do a lot of fun stuff!
Some participants are proficient Spanish speakers, and some are just beginners. But no matter the language level, I think I’ve created a community that is like a family – we treat each other with respect.
I’m proud of my culture and I think it’s a good thing to celebrate where you come from
What is the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month to you?
I’m proud of my culture and I think it’s a good thing to celebrate where you come from. People ask all the time – what is culture for you? For me it’s a lot of things. It’s food, it’s family, it’s friends. It’s sharing ideas, supporting each other and lifting each other up.
Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she runs Senior Planet’s Supporter program in addition to being a contributing writer for this site. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.