The Comcast Foundation Expands Digital Literacy and Mentoring ProgramsBy Peak Johnson |
At the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs in North Philadelphia, neighborhood youth work on building and refurbishing computers for their neighbors, friends, and family. Diligently, a youth can be seen removing and inputting ram, discussing with a member of the community about what they may need next, all while bridging the gap to digital literacy.
The Comcast Digital Connectors program, one of The Comcast Foundation‘s digital literacy initiatives, provides the opportunity for young adults ages 14-21, from diverse, low income backgrounds, in order to develop skills in using computers, application and the internet, and then apply what they have learned toward their community.
Not only assisting in bridging the digital divide for youth, the core focus of digital connecters is to help communities understand the benefits of using broadband and making it a part of their lives.
“Kids literally put the computer together,” Charisse Lillie, president of the Comcast Foundation said. “They are learning about how to use the computer and then have to teach other people in the community how to use the internet.”
Participants in the program learn how to network computer labs, connect wireless access points, design computer training modules and create social media projects.
They also volunteer their time at community based organizations, senior centers, churches, local schools and even in their homes to help better digital literacy in their communities.
“The kids really become ambassadors in their neighborhood on how you can use the internet” Lillie added.
Investing in strengthening the community
The Comcast Foundation was founded by the Comcast Corporation in June of 1999 with one main goal in mind, providing charitable support to qualified nonprofit organizations.
The Foundation invests in programs and nonprofit organizations that strengthen communities. With their primary focus being geared toward funding diversity-oriented programs specifically addressing digital literacy, community service, and volunteerism initiatives.
One of the initiatives of Comcast’s digital literacy is providing the internet and computer service during their Internet Essentials Program.
“All communities are using the internet in ways that are helpful for them and their families,” Lillie said.
In its first full year, the Internet Essentials had helped more than 100, 000 families, or 400,000 Americans, gain access to the Internet at home.
“These are communities where the broadband service is very low. So the child and the family can find the benefit of using the internet.” Lillie said.
In 2008, Comcast introduced the Beyond School Walls mentoring program at its Philadelphia headquarters. Since then, the program has expanded to Comcast offices in 12 cities nationwide.
The program is the nation’s largest workplace mentoring program run in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“We’re very proud of our employees,” Lillie said. “We always have a waiting list. Several of our employees who are Bigs, continue to be big brothers.”
Nationwide, about 285 Comcast employees will volunteer this year as Bigs through the Beyond School Walls program.
During the 2011-2012 school year, 275 Comcast Bigs participated in Beyond School Walls nationwide.
“As far as future plans, we’re going to continuing growing the programs that we have,” Lillie said. “And increasing the numbers of little’s that participate in big brothers and sisters programs.”