Nicholas and Nasha at a Second Friday event off of Lancaster Ave.
“I met Nasha two Jazz Festivals ago,” he said, looking to the ceiling as he recalled. “Yeah. It was two Jazz Festivals ago.”
I had the joy of sitting across from Nicholas, an alum of our Tech St@rs program who frequents the Center for Digital Inclusion and Technology (CDIT) a few times a week. Nicholas was relaying how he became involved in Tech Stars through meeting Nasha, a former CDIT staff member, at the People’s Emergency Center’s annual Jazz Festival.
“I was hoping to be in a computer class because I liked technology. And then I met Nasha and she said that ‘we have a computer class called Tech St@rs if you’re interested—here’s my information.’ So then I said ‘Yes,’ and then every day after that day I kept buggin’ Nasha about the information.”
I laughed as he relayed how he got an application form and lost it, having to get another form not one more time, but two more times. His relaying of his persistence to be a part of our Tech St@rs program, an after-school program for 4th-6th graders that focuses on bridging the digital divide, stood out to me.
“I chose [Tech St@rs] because I was just a kid in the neighborhood with nothin’ really to do so I did that to keep me occupied.” He communicated about the lack of after-school programs in the area, and his desire for programs to be a part of so he had something to do and “not be bored.”
It has been one year since Nicholas became connected with CDIT. After completing our Tech St@rs program in fall 2013, Nicholas completed the summer session of Tech St@rs in 2014. Upon completing the summer session of Tech St@rs, he continued to stop by the CDIT, his initiative leading staff to create an after-school internship with him.
“This place is helping me complete my goals because I need to do my homework to achieve my goals and I don’t do homework like at all so they’re helping me with my homework.” He also talked about learning the upper rows and lower rows—keyboarding skills--in Tech St@rs and how that has helped him at school in his technology class.
Some of our students join Tech St@rs because they desire to learn skills for the computer, others because they want to earn a free desktop computer for their homes. Even others, like Nicholas, join as a means to find something to do and end up finding a community that lasts far beyond the actual 12 weeks of the program.
Sitting across from Nicholas, I was reminded once again that the CDIT is not only a department that is committed to bridging the digital divide, but it is also a space where community is built through programming.
Amber Cullen is the Program Coordinator at the Center for Digital Inclusion and Technology. She is a current Mission Year Team Member, and is interested in conflict transformation as a tool to build peace and work towards reconciliation in our local communities, nation, and world.