Tri-Valley Hero: San Ramon's Cristina Hill, teaching technology to seniors

Cal High grad recognized with Innovation award for Girl Scouts project, 'Seniors in Touch'

Technology has always been a part of life for 18 year-old Cristina Hill.

As a member of the first generation who will never know life without a cellphone or Google, the recent California High School graduate has been figuring out how to take advantage of the wired life since she could talk.

"From the time she was 2 or 3, we had cellphones," her mother, Sylvia San Miguel, said. "She was the secretary for the family -- at 3, she was answering the phones in a very professional way."

From there it was on to email accounts and of course, social media. "She's not intimidated by it at all," San Miguel added. "Each new thing that comes along, Facebook, Instagram and whatever is the new thing they are doing today, she will be a part of it."

But not everyone is a natural, as Hill discovered when she was looking for a project to fulfill her requirement for the Girl Scouts Gold Award.

A member of San Ramon's Troop 32680 since the first grade, Hill and several other troop members set the lofty goal to attain the organization's highest award when they were still young.

"It's a huge undertaking," Hill said. "Only about 5.4% of Girl Scouts achieve it."

One of the major aspects of the Gold Award is a project, similar to that needed for Boy Scouts to receive their Eagle Scout Award -- except, Hill said with a smile, "It's harder."

Hill said that coming up with an idea for the project might have been the most difficult part. "I was having a hard time finding something I really wanted to do," she explained. "There are a lot of requirements you have to meet before a project is approved. The project requires 80 hours of your own time, and the project has to be sustainable for the future."

Through long talks with her mother, Hill finally came upon an idea that hit home with her. "My mom was just throwing ideas out there one after another, and something she said made me think about the difference in the relationships I have with my grandparents," Hill said.

While her father's parents were active on social media, her mother's parents were not. "She was much more connected with Owen's parents," San Miguel said. "She was able to keep them updated on her life."

From this, Hill was inspired to create and implement a plan for teaching older adults their way around the internet. Starting with her technologically challenged grandfather, Hill's project brought her to two local community centers and the Villa San Ramon Senior Living Facility.

"To work with these people and then watch them apply what I taught them, that was pretty phenomenal," Hill said. "That was my favorite part."

Hill's dedication and success inspired San Miguel to nominate her daughter for the Tri-Valley Heroes Award for Innovation.

As a freshman in the middle of midterms at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Hill wasn't able to attend the awards ceremony in person, but her father made sure she was a part of it. "My dad FaceTimed me while they were introducing me, and I got to hear my mom's speech," Hill said. "She's always been my biggest fan."

Hill has gained a lot of fans since she started her project. Now when people hear about her project, they ask for help. Luckily, her skills will be improving as fast as technology changes; though she entered college as a marketing and management major, a technology class she is taking inspired her to declare a second major.

"Something about the class just clicked with me," she said. "So now I am an IT major, too."

Hero FYI

* Cristina Hill is the youngest of four children.

* Acting was her first passion -- she once played Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty."

* A San Ramon native, Hill graduated from California High School in June and now studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

* She is a member of the Leadership Development Program, part of the Honors Program at Seton Hall.

* She is heading to Barcelona, Spain for a study abroad program in March.

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