By James Horne Jr., President and CEO, United Way of Greater Union County
As the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit organization, the United Way has been an important change-agent in the lives of people across the globe. Locally, United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) has thrived for close to 100 years, in part by forming valuable community partnerships including Comcast NBCUniversal, which has helped UWGUC implement the “Essentials of Computer Literacy” program for our residents in Plainfield, NJ, in collaboration with Union County College.
Unfortunately, the digital divide continues to exist for many of the residents we serve and the technology gap continues to widen for families who don’t have access to current technology. For the few families that do have access to technology, we found many don’t know where to begin or how to use it effectively. It can be quite a daunting task.
Addressing this concern – in places of need like Plainfield – falls under Comcast’s Internet Essentials initiative, the company’s high-speed Internet adoption program for low-income families. We worked with them to develop the “Essentials of Community Literacy” program in an effort to bridge the digital divide in our community. The five-week program provided residents access to technology, while engaging them in a conducive learning environment that inspired the desire, in some, to seek further education on computer technology. The classes included valuable information on children’s safety on the Internet, essential email skills, basic PC & Internet operations and Microsoft Word skills – the foundation for developing a marketable skill-set.
The UWGUC believes children are our most precious commodity; the “Keeping Children Safe on the Internet” workshop was a tech-savvy eye-opener for parents. It apprised them on such technical jargon like “wiping out” the computer’s history and how that could alert them to unauthorized website visits. They also learned how to block certain websites from their children. The overall success of the computer literacy program proved to be an invaluable game changer for participants.
Because of these fruitful partnerships, when it came time to select the recipient of UWGUC’s “Spirit of Community” Award for Education, Comcast NBCUniversal was the perfect choice.
This collaborative continues to serve as a beacon of hope. Indeed, it is partnerships like this one that make it possible for UWGUC to fulfill its mission: To improve lives and build strong communities by uniting individuals and organizations with the will, passion and resources needed to solve problems.
For more information about the UWGUC, visit www.UWGUC.org.