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Sawyer family bequeaths wonderful gift for Union County residents

By John Estridge, Editor

Recently a man was checking out books and Liberty Library Director Karen Kahl happened to be at the desk.

The man asked if the library held any books concerning an introduction to the Hebrew language.

Kahl told the man no, but she thought she could help him out.

She personally does not know Hebrew, but Kahl and others had just instituted a wonderful gift the Sawyer family has given to the county. It could enrich many people in this county.

The Joseph A. Sawyer Sr. and Alpha “Omega” Sawyer Family Fund (donors: Jo Anne SawyerKnoll, Russel C. Sawyer and Jamaal Sawyer-Dymsk), through the Union County Foundation and the Liberty Library, is going to pay for online courses through Udemy.

According to the website, it dubs itself “the world's largest selection of courses. Choose from over 100,000 online video courses with new additions published every month.”

These are not courses for college credit, but as the man wanting to learn Hebrew found out, it could teach a person a foreign language. One could learn to play the piano, knit, learn how to get rich. One could find out about some technical issue with software or hardware or … as it says, there are at least 100,000 opportunities to learn something new. All of the courses chosen by Union County residents will be free, paid for by the Sawyer family. It is first-come-first-serve, and a person can complete more than one course.

“We would prefer a person finish one course before starting another,” Kahl said.

Eligible courses should cost $15 or less.

“We think this is neat,” Kahl said. “They can take it at their own pace, at home, on their own computer or tablet.”

The library will send the person who wants the class a coupon code. Once they have the coupon code, they start their class for free.

According to Kahl, when a person finishes a course, they receive a Certificate of Completion.

Jo Anne SawyerKnoll said her son, Jamaal Sawyer-Dymsk, had the idea. He remembered his mother telling him about his grandfather, Joseph A. Sawyer Sr.

When Jo Anne was 10 or 11, her father took correspondence courses to learn how to work on TVs and radios. His courses were through DeVry. Those were snail mail times.

“They would mail him booklets to read about a specific issue with electronics,” Jo Anne said. “Then, they would send him the test. He would take it and send it back to be graded. Then, they would send it back. He was a really smart guy. He would show me the test results, and they were perfect. He got A+s.”

Her dad went on to open a television and radio repair business in Liberty.

“I told Jamaal about that,” Jo Anne said. “That's what caused him to think about this particular gift. It was something that could be a benefit to members of the community. They could gain information or access to educational information to better themselves.”

Kahl said she turned to Jack Broering. He teaches the library's digital fix class, a one-on-one class at the library concerning technology.

Broering worked with Jamaal, who is in software development. And together they worked out a system that will make this easy for the consumer, and it will work.

A person who is interested in taking a course contacts the library. The person at the library sends a link to get to a sign-up form to the interested person. The person then fills in the form and it is automatically sent back to the Udemy Gmail account. The library employee completes the signup procedure. The library contacts the person interested in the course with a message, and the person begins to learn.

Alec Fisher is working at the library this summer, and he is overseeing the Udemy courses, Kahl said.

“I hope people take advantage of this and use it the way they intended it,” Kahl said.