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Computers Hooked Teen On Living

Wed., June 12, 1996

FOR THE RECORD: June 14, 1996:Idaho Clarification: Eric Maland grew up in an alcoholic and abusive home that did not include his biological father. A Wednesday Close to Hom column implied his father was part of the family.

Eric Maland is computer-powered.

By 1994, adults, school and friends had sucked the soul from the teenager. But computers replenished him as efficiently as food rebuilds the starving.

“I’m motivated,” Eric says now, obviously enjoying the sound of the word he never thought would apply to him. “A few years ago, I didn’t see much ahead. Now, I get $500 a week and perks and bonuses.”

Eric had attended 11 schools before he settled in Coeur d’Alene for high school. Sometimes, he’d miss school for a month while his family moved.

His parents were abusive, alcoholics and worse, he says. School bored him so he skipped often. He compensated by reading avidly. In his junior year, he dropped out altogether, but his mother convinced him to enroll in a day program at Anchor House, a group home for troubled boys.

Bill Kopriva didn’t have much hope for Eric. The shaggy-haired boy with ripped clothes showed little interest in Bill’s computer class at Anchor House. Shortly after he arrived, Eric slashed his wrists.

“I don’t think I really wanted to die, just to get away from home,” he says, looking down uncomfortably.

Computers captured Eric during his recovery. Seeing his interest, Bill began stopping at Eric’s house to wake the boy each morning so he wouldn’t miss class. Bill tested Eric for his strengths, taught him programs and how to tear apart computers and rebuild them.

“I thought it was great what I could do,” Eric says. “A computer does what you tell it and doesn’t talk back. It’s really logical, all based on math.”

Eric earned his high school graduation equivalency document at Anchor House, tried trade school for a few weeks, then took off to Seattle to explore the job market.

Two weeks after he arrived, he began working at Microsoft for $12 an hour fixing any computer problem in two buildings. He was 17.

Eric left Microsoft a few months ago to free-lance his skills in Coeur d’Alene. He writes programs for On Line Now and designs World Wide Web pages for people. He calls himself a techie-geek with pride.

“When I first met him, he just laid around and listened to music,” says Bill, who’s become a close friend of Eric’s. “Now he’s motivated, confident, outgoing. I think he has a fantastic career ahead of him.”

Who’s driving?

You have to wonder what possesses a person to become a driver’s training teacher. Consider this story from Wallace’s Claudia Childress: Her two older children were in the same driver’s training class a few years ago and signed up for the 6 a.m. stint in the car.

The Childresses live 17 miles from town, so the kids awoke with the chickens to make the class. Claudia’s son took the driver’s seat next to the instructor while her daughter and a third student slept in the back seat.

It wasn’t long before the boy driver nodded off, too, but he jerked himself awake as his head slumped toward his chest. He looked fearfully at his instructor, ready for a scolding, but the man was sound asleep.

The boy never told his instructor what happened, but he told Claudia and they discussed how important it is to stop driving when you’re tired.

As if that incident wasn’t enough, Claudia’s youngest child was behind the wheel of a driver’s training car recently when a dog ran into the passenger side door. The dog was stunned, but everyone in the car was fine.

Claudia’s just happy she has no more children to put through driver’s training …

Serve ‘em up

No more pizza pockets for Leslie Crane of St. Maries. For 25 years, she’s filled school lunch trays with spaghetti, burgers and tender loving care. Today she retires. What could beat such a “filling” life? How about an extended second honeymoon on the Oregon coast with her husband.

Whose retirement will leave a huge hole in your workplace? Praise their contributions to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814; fax to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.

, DataTimes

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