In 2018, its first year of operation, with just 20 laptops and one instructor, the South Park Information and Resources Center enrolled 85 people, predominantly Latino, who were looking to sharpen their digital expertise. Funding from the Center came from a Technology Matching Fund grant that was awarded to help close the digital divide and provide more opportunities to improve computer skills in underrepresented communities.
“I was really surprised how many people wanted to learn about computers,” said Education Program Coordinator Gladis Clemente.
Enrollees ranged in age, skill, and need, but all were hoping for one outcome from taking the class; to learn new computer skills that will help improve their lives.
They started with the basics of how to turn on the laptops, how to type, how to manage simple navigation, and how to conduct a search. When students gained more confidence, instructors moved on to tougher challenges and customized the class to accommodate everyone’s expected curriculum.
“At the beginning of the class, we asked everyone what they wanted to know,” said Clemente. “And that is how we determined what we would cover for each session.”
The success stories from what the students learned in the class are diverse and encouraging:
- One student got a promotion at work because he was able to learn Microsoft Office.
- Several enrollees were able to complete online applications for childcare, employment, and affordable housing.
- One person expanded his construction business by learning to promote it on social media.
- Many connected with family and friends who they don’t see every day.
- Several parents opened email accounts to connect with their child’s teacher and learn more about grades, homework assignments, and volunteer opportunities.
“Those parents told me they now know what subjects their kids excel in and need more help with,” said Clemente. ‘It opened up a new avenue to connect with their children.”
The South Park Information and Resource Center believes they have far exceeded their goal of making attendees feel more valuable and creating opportunities for improvement. They’ve been pleased with the response from the community and the success rate of their class attendees. They hope to expand the lab and open more spots for popular classes in the future. To learn more about the South Park Information and Resource Center and the courses and events they offer, visit, www.southparkinfocenter.org.
To learn more about the Technology Matching Fund program, including more on past winners and how to apply, visit www.seattle.gov/tech.