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In the Community Stories

This page aims to share best practices by providing in-depth success stories about how organizations are improving digital literacy among local communities across the country.
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The Foundation for California Community Colleges launched California Connects, a Recovery Act-funded program to increase digital literacy skills and broadband adoption by providing training and learning support to underserved communities in the Central Valley region.
California Connects is utilizing local college students in the Central Valley to provide training in area communities, home to many low-income, Spanish-speaking residents. More than 5,800 socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are enrolled in the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program at 33 local community colleges will serve as trainers in their communities. Many of these students have already received laptops, Microsoft IT Academy training, and access to on-campus certification exams. As of April 2011, the Foundation has already launched the “Train-the-Trainer” digital literacy program and held two workshops. The Foundation expects to distribute an additional 3,000 laptops to MESA trainers by the end of this summer.

MESA trainers will teach residents to navigate the Internet, search for jobs online, and access important health and finance information.

common sense media logo

Common Sense Media launched its digital citizenship curriculum for middle schools, Digital Citizenship in a Connected Culture, a free program that empowers students to think critically and make informed choices about how they live and treat others in today’s digital world.

The curriculum is based on the digital ethics research of Dr. Howard Gardner and the GoodPlay Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education. It covers topics such as privacy, social media, and cyberbullying. “Given the amount of time kids spend with technology, digital ethics education is just as important as reading and writing,” said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. “It is essential that every school in America teach digital literacy and citizenship so that all students have the opportunity to gain the skills they need to make safe, responsible, and respectful decisions in today’s 24/7 digital world."

users working at computer workstations

The Special Technology Access Resource (STAR) Center provides accessible technology and digital literacy assistance to people with disabilities in the Center Park community of Seattle, Washington. Its mission is to empower people of widely varying abilities and disabilities to use computers, the Internet, and assistive technology. The center offers voice recognition software, special keyboards, Braille translators, mouse alternatives, and other useful hardware and software tools.

STAR Center’s “Rite of Passage” program provides technical training for people with disabilities in transition. The program offers instruction on basic Internet and software usage, publication design, job readiness skills, and civic engagement skills. Each program volunteer helps train future volunteers through “peer-to-peer support” in order to sustain the program.

staff member works at desk

The disAbility Resource Center provides free instruction on computer accessibility and digital literacy to people with disabilities in the Wilmington, North Carolina community. Computer classes offered at the center include a variety of tutorials. Some courses teach basic computer skills and internet navigation, while others educate visitors on resume creation and the job search process. The classes offered empower visitors with necessary skills to succeed in the workforce.
Gary Perry, the center’s IT specialist, explains, “Our goal is to make all equipment accessible for people with any type of disability.” The center goes to great lengths to ensure that the needs of all of its visitors are met including offering tools such as high-contrast displays and text-to-speech software.

In addition to classes and accessible equipment, the disAbility Resource Center offers additional services. Visitors can attend events to help transition to independent living and receive information about other assistive organizations.

staff member takes caller request for equipment

Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) provides digital literacy training and other services to people who are deaf and hard of hearing at its contact center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The center supplies discounted equipment, high-speed Internet access, and offers life-skills training.
The center offers 10 web-based “how to” training videos using American Sign Language to teach computer basics, technical troubleshooting solutions, and Internet search tips. Additionally, the center is focused on increasing employment opportunities. It hosts several career training workshops which teach interviewing skills and job search techniques for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The digital literacy training offered by the center in conjunction with the career workshops will allow individuals to facilitate the job search process online.

u s department of housing and urban development logo

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh Bedford Dwellings offers free computer and internet access to help residents further their education and find employment opportunities. The Bedford Hope VI Center provides an onsite Technology center and employment training, including GED preparation, job search and workforce development classes, and employment seminars, to low-income residents. Residents can also attend computer classes on a variety of topics including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, Microsoft Office® productivity software, resume writing, and online job searching techniques. As an added incentive, individuals who complete 10 computer training objectives have the opportunity to receive a refurbished computer.

These programs have made an enormous impact on several residents of the housing community. Senior citizen resident, Una Madey traveled to the Bedford Hope Center to attend the Computer Program. At first, she mentioned she was nervous and intimated, but through the basic computer and Microsoft Word® classes, Ms. Madey felt comfortable enough to navigate the computer on her own, and later used her computer skills to find a job as an administrative assistant at a local business. After raising her family, Frankie Willis made the decision to go back to school. With the help of Bedford Dwellings’ GED program, she was able to accomplish her goals. As a young adult, Taneka Davis spent time at the Bedford Hope Center researching potential career paths of interest and decided to further her education at Point Park University. Ms. Davis, now a college student, still comes to the computer lab to work on her college assignments and research job leads. Leslie Bailey, a handyman by trade, came to the computer lab with an interest in writing poetry. After completing a Microsoft Word® training course, Mr. Bailey now uses the program to create and distributes his poetry to his neighbors.

All of these programs are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

u s department of housing and urban development logo

The Plough Towers Computer Learning Center is combining digital literacy training with free access to computers and the Internet to help spread broadband adoption among senior citizen residents. Residents can attend a wide variety of computer courses including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, Microsoft Office® software training, and Internet search techniques. The center contains state-of-the-art laptops, desktops, printers, and scanners, allowing residents to read publications online, print photos, and continually expand their computer skills.

Additionally, the center provides international software and keyboards, allowing its multi-cultural mix of residents to learn computer basics and communicate with loved ones abroad. With email accounts and Russian keyboards, Russian-speaking residents can communicate in their native language with relatives and friends in the former Soviet Union. Chinese residents are able to type in Chinese with a language setting and read online newspapers and publications from their hometowns and in their native languages.

More importantly, the center provides training classes on Skype, allowing residents to video call their families abroad for free. One example of how the center is changing lives is of a Russian couple. After attending a Internet fundamentals class, the resident couple used Skype to reconnect with a pair of friends in their wedding 48 years ago.

These programs are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

young students at computers

The Vermont Council on Rural Development’s e-Vermont Community Broadband Project provides digital literacy training and tools to 24 communities across the state. Through its “e-Partners” and Community Directors, the organization provides a broad range of digital literacy classes such as computer basics, website development, Internet fundamentals, and Internet safety tips.

For example, one partner, the Small Business Development Center, is offering workshops for local community members and small rural businesses with an introduction to how online resources can help improve their businesses. Another partner, the Vermont State Colleges, conducts computer skills workshops and provides webinars on key topics such as Internet Safety for Parents and “train the trainer” programs for community members who want to learn to teach basic Internet skills.

In addition, the organization’s partner, Digital Wish, helps schools implement computer learning initiatives by leading digital literacy courses, offering sample curricula, recommending acceptable usage policies, providing basic technical support, and deploying laptops in fourth through sixth-grade classes. This project is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

teacher instructing a computer class to seniors

The New York State Education Department is teaching digital literacy courses at computer learning centers in 13 libraries across upstate New York. These centers are supporting a statewide initiative to provide affordable broadband, computer skills, and workforce development training to senior citizens, job seekers, and small-business owners. Each library provides new computers, free access to a wide variety of online journals, reports, and databases, and educational classes that are tailored specifically to the needs of its patrons.

For example, visitors to the Baldwinsville Public Library can attend classes covering a wide range of subjects including computer basics, Internet security and safety, Facebook and Skype, and Microsoft® Office software. The library also provides one-on-one resume and cover letter assistance and hosts a series of workforce development speaking seminars. Aimed at small business owners, these presentations will cover topics such as following correct tax codes, advertising with local media, and applying for health insurance. Patrons at the Western Sullivan Public Library can participate in numerous classes covering topics such as computer basics, Microsoft Windows® software fundamentals, Microsoft® Office software tips, and virus prevention.

This program is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

ribbon cutting ceremony

The Government of the District of Columbia is teaching digital literacy courses at three public computer centers across the city to help people develop computer and workforce skills. These centers are supporting a citywide initiative to provide affordable broadband and digital literacy training classes to low-income, unemployed District residents. Each center provides patrons with access to new computers, free Internet access, and digital literacy courses.

For example, the new Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC) center houses 70 state-of-the-art computers and offers digital literacy and workforce development courses on a variety of topics including resume building, computer literacy, computer basics, online job search techniques, and Microsoft® Office software fundamentals. The Petworth Library also provides new state-of-the-art computers and web-based courses that help job seekers earn a GED, learn basic computer skills, and prepare for professional exams.

This program is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

child using computer

Future Generations Graduate School is using the community presence of fire stations across West Virginia to increase broadband access and teach digital literacy courses. In a novel twist, the project is outfitting and opening a total of 60 computer centers in fire stations across the state, providing free access to broadband and computer skills classes for low-income residents. The centers and their educational partner organizations are holding basic digital literacy classes as well as additional trainings on topics such as e-commerce, chronic disease self-management and substance abuse, and community-based emergency response and awareness.

The volunteer fire departments and emergency rescue squads manage the centers and maintain at least one computer mentor at each center to assist the community in training and using the computers. Future Generations hopes that the centers will help residents to pursue higher education and retrain for job opportunities.

This project is made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

u s department of housing and urban development logo

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee offers digital literacy training at Neighborhood Network Centers across six of its housing communities. Each Neighborhood Network Center offers a variety of computer skills and workforce development classes including GED preparation, computer basics, Microsoft Office® productivity software fundamentals, homework help, and online job search techniques. In addition, the centers provide residents with free access to state-of-the-art computers and Internet.

The impact of these centers can be felt across multiple housing communities. Aelicia Patterson received her GED and won a Founder’s Fund Award from Milwaukee Achiever’s for a photography business that she started on after developing computers skills from training provided by the Cherry Court Neighborhood Networks lab. Eric Griffin moved to Milwaukee from Alabama after Hurricane Katrina. After improving his computer skills at the Cherry Court Neighborhood Networks Center, Mr. Griffin gained adminision as a Biotechnology student at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Shalaya Morehouse started coming to Carver Park Neighborhood Network Center five years ago. Her initial visit was to improve her computers skills so she could get a job. After taking computer courses in Microsoft Office® software and website design, Ms. Morehouse was able to obtain an Associate’s degree in Human Services from Milwaukee Area Technical College.

All of these programs are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

people at computers

The Monroe Housing Authority (MHA) is providing digital literacy and workforce development courses to residents of its housing community. MHA created the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), an interactive educational assistance program designed to help Section 8 residents become independent and self-supporting. The program provides services such as academic tutoring, academic testing prep work, and basic and advanced computer training to help residents achieve a variety of educational goals including obtaining a GED, college degree, or vocational and technical certifications. Participants also have access to computers, the Internet, child care assistance, transportation, and career counseling.

The program is making an immediate impact on its residents including Temika Benton. Without a high school diploma Temika discovered that her career opportunities were limited. Temika took a job at a fast-food restaurant for minimum wage and moved into the Burg Jones Lane family housing community. She soon discovered that this was not a dead-end road, but an opportunity. The adult education center located in the property’s community room had a very flexible class schedule and allowed her to work at her own pace. The computers and educational software coupled with her generous and compassionate educator, Anthony Garcia, provided a structured and positive atmosphere for her to develop self-discipline and achieve her goals. Using these resources, Temika received her GED and was able to obtain a management position at the restaurant. But that’s just the beginning of the story. MHA’s property manager, James Johnson, encouraged her to go further and set new goals. She took his advice and is now enrolled in Delta Vocational and Technical School.

All of these programs are made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

computer class at a community center

The Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority (SFCHA) offers daily computer skills and educational classes at its new Hopewell Community Center/Public Computer Center in addition to English as a second language, computer, and General Equivalency Diploma (GED) classes.

The new center’s goal is to offer broadband access and computer training to low-income families, minorities, and disadvantaged youth as well as disabled and elderly Santa Fe residents. This project is made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

coppin state university seal

The Coppin Heights-Rosemont Family Computer Center serves a low-income West Baltimore community with a high minority population and offers 15 training and educational courses on such topics as basic and advanced computer techniques, job training, financial literacy, health information, entrepreneurship, nonprofit administration, and global education.

The Center, established by Coppin State University, will provide a summer technology camp for elementary and middle school students. Aimed at students of all age levels, the camp will provide basic, intermediate, and advanced computer training workshops covering a wide-variety of topics. This project is made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

ribbon cutting ceremony

The City of Boston is combining digital literacy training with access to computers, the Internet, and software to help residents of the city’s lowest-income and lowest broadband adoption areas. The City’s goal is to provide 627 new computers and job training software at 48 locations including 15 community centers, 11 Boston Housing Authority (BHA) sites, and 22 libraries. Future computer centers will feature similar software as well as programs geared toward health education. Computers at local library branches will also provide literacy training and email access.

The new computer center at the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, Mass., is a good example of the City’s efforts. The Community Center has 15 new state-of-the-art desktops and fiber-optic cable, allowing visitors to surf the Internet on the city’s new broadband network. The new desktops also feature cutting edge software allowing participants to gain basic work skills online, study for the state’s standards-based assessment program, and access multimedia to produce videos and other art.

When the City of Boston project is complete, nearly 18,000 people a week will be able to access broadband Internet as well as software designed for various subject matters, including workforce development, after-school education, and gang intervention-conflict resolution workshops. This project is made possible from funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

instructor teaching a class to seniors

MyWay Village is teaching digital literacy courses at computer centers in 16 senior citizen housing communities across Northern Illinois. Besides access to computer labs, MyWay Village offers residents computer training classes on a variety of topics including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, advanced Internet searching techniques, Microsoft Office® software tips, and webpage design. As an added incentive, individuals who complete 12 hours of training receive a free personal computer.

Additionally, MyWay Village holds weekly interactive discussion groups where community residents can talk and learn computer and Internet basics from each other. The organization, which is in the process of changing its name to ConnectedLiving, Inc., helps residents use digital technology to connect with family members, access health information online, and exercise using YouTube dance videos. MyWay Village also, in collaboration with local Workforce Investment Act organizations, helps seniors leverage their new digital literacy skills to find part-time work.

This project was made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

woman picks up refurbished personal computer

OneCommunity’s “Connect Your Community” project provides digital literacy training to citizens across several cities including Cleveland and Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; and Bradenton, Fla. Aimed at expanding broadband adoption in low-income communities, the program teaches participants computer basics, Internet fundamentals, online safety and privacy tips, and software functionality. Participants must also develop an adoption plan, mapping out a personal approach and timeline to acquiring access to broadband and regularly using a computer.

Additionally, the project is partnering with non-profit and community organizations to implement neighbor-to-neighbor digital literacy training and broadband adoption. The program recruits and trains unemployed and underemployed residents of each community to work as members of a “CYC Corps” charged with teaching computer skills and increasing broadband awareness to other community members.

The ultimate goal of the project is to provide digital literacy training and services to approximately 33,000 people. This project was made possible by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

students working on computers

Las Vegas – Clark County Urban League (LVUL) is teaching digital literacy courses at 15 new and 14 refurbished computer centers across the city to help people develop computer and workforce skills. The Nevada Public Computer Centers (NPCC) offers courses on a variety of topics including Microsoft Office® software, Internet fundamentals, and communicating through e-mail and Skype. The center also provides one-on-one help for students working on class projects as well as senior citizens learning how to use technology to stay in contact with their families.

The 15 percent unemployment rate in Las Vegas is difficult on the community, especially those residents who lack computer skills. To improve digital literacy and help people find employment, NPCC offers classes in online job searches, resume creation, and interview preparation. The project’s digital literacy training is already making an immediate impact on residents. Julia Mann, a Las Vegas woman, had been unemployed for two years and living in a shelter with her son. Now, after completing an NPCC computer course and working with one of the Center’s job advisors, she is gainfully employed.

This program is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

student and her mother sit by a computer

The Computers for Youth Foundation (CFY) is teaching digital literacy courses to families in high-poverty middle schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Known as Family Learning Workshops, these bilingual classes teach low-income students and their parents about the educational uses of home technology and broadband including how to use this technology to improve learning and motivation. Parents and students are encouraged to work together and commit to an ongoing home learning effort.

Through this program, CFY provides participating families with a broadband-ready Home Learning Center, broadband enrollment guidance, and access to high-quality, online educational software focused on math, English, social studies, and science. CFY also provides training to teachers on leveraging educational software to extend learning into the home and drive student achievement. This program is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and information Administration.

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