“We saw so many new faces in the computer labs.” “I am coming back tomorrow to continue searching on the Internet for a job.” “Thank you for the opportunity.” “I learned so much more about the challenges our clients face.”
These are just a few of the many exciting comments made by clients, volunteers and staff at our 2nd Annual Broadband Across Texas Week (BAT) celebration, June 24 – June 28. As a partner in the Texas Connects Coalition project, we dedicated the week to educating the public about digital literacy and showcasing the free computer training available at our public computer centers.
Throughout the week, Austin Free-Net’s facilities were buzzing with activity. New and familiar faces came out for a variety of free digital activities and community presentations. Each of our participating centers, from Trinity Center to the South Austin Neighborhood Center, reported an increase in visitors. Clients ranged from a man who had never used a computer to a young woman who needed access to the Internet for an employment test. Everyone embraced the BAT Week theme “Learn, Click, Do.”
Visitors at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) helped launch our new Computer Lab at the beginning of the week. We are excited that we can serve up to 30 more clients a month in the ARCH’s learner centered computer classes. Adding to the BAT Week celebration, a special graduation was held at The DeWitty Center for adults who participated in Austin Free-Net’s eight-week adult basic education class sponsored by the Wooldridge Elementary School Boys and Girls Club.
“Digital Access has a profound impact on the daily lives of people. This is why an event such as Broadband Across Texas is relevant to help raise awareness of digital literacy and help more people like the clients I met at our Rosewood Zaragosa Computer Lab. We helped a couple use the Internet for the first time to find a food pantry,” said Juanita Budd, AFN executive director.
On Thursday, representatives from the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Capital Area Food Bank, Austin Area Urban League, and the City of Austin Human Resources Department came out to share vital housing, health and human services information. Guest speakers also provided information on job interviewing skills and job readiness. DeVry University shared information about their higher education programs. We also had a representative from Travis County Voter Registration encourage our clients to register and become actively engaged in the community.
The success of our Broadband Across Texas Week celebration is also due in part to our volunteers, staff and gracious donations. We had more than fifty volunteers to help in the Computer Labs and create e-books for IBM’s Reading Companion program. Several employees with IHS, an Austin corporation, volunteered along with students from St. Edward’s University’s Asian Pacific University program. Thanks to Mobile Loaves and Fishes, FRANK, and Google Fiber our clients were welcomed in our computer labs with refreshments and gifts.
Our official celebration of digital access and free computer training is over, but it is also a new beginning. We are confident that many new faces will return, and people who didn’t have a chance to visit will come to our free computer labs. We are excited about breaking down the barrier of digital access for more people.