Monday, October 10, 2016

Van Dolson serves community through computers

EMJ’s people are the building blocks of the company. Their personalities, skills and past experiences are large parts of what make the company great. We are proud of each member of the team and enjoy sharing their stories.
Ryan Van Dolson, an IT Support Technician in the Chattanooga office, joined the team in 2012 with a desire to combine his technology skills, EMJ’s purpose of servant leadership and his personal mission to serve the community.
Shortly after starting at EMJ, Ryan discovered a free visual programming language called Scratch, which allows children and adults to easily create animations and games, providing a stepping stone to the advanced world of computer programming. He introduced Scratch to his wife, who home-schools their two sons, and the boys immediately loved it.
While assisting employees in setting up new computers and preparing the old ones for recycling, Ryan developed an idea: team up with EMJ to provide laptops to any homeschooled student who had an interest in programming. With previous experience teaching at Christian school in Taiwan, Ryan felt that he was up to the challenge of teaching a programming course—but first, he had to get his boss onboard. Ryan talked his supervisor, Sarah Kirby, who loved the idea.

“EMJ’s culture promotes serving each other and the community, so when an employee takes initiative and wants to use EMJ as an additional resource, we couldn’t be prouder,” Sarah said.

Ryan began teaching a Scratch programming class for local children using the laptops donated by EMJ. “They love it, and I think the laptops have opened doors for these kids that otherwise would’ve remained shut,” Ryan said. So far, EMJ has donated six laptops for his students to use.
Ryan says the class encourages them to think programmatically and gain a solid technology foundation that could launch future careers for those who are interested. “Who knows, maybe someday, one of these kids could be in EMJ’s IT department—it’s pretty cool to think about.”
As a mentor to his programming students, Ryan reflects on his mentors growing up— his grandparents, a former high school teacher and an uncle. He says they shared a focus on listening, positivity, and being unafraid to show humanity—something he consistently focuses on.
“This program—and all of the work our team does in Chattanooga— shows that EMJ isn’t all about building buildings, but also building our community and its people,” Ryan said.
Learn more about our EMJ team and how to become a part of it here