In May 2015, NTEN and Google Fiber launched the Digital Inclusion Fellowship, a new national program investing in local communities and nonprofit organizations to address the digital divide. Sixteen Fellows comprised the first cohort, and they have shared their work with us. We asked DeAndre Pickett to give us an update on his work with Literacy Action in Atlanta, Georgia.
When you think of what your community has accomplished this year, what are you most proud of?
I think about the seven students who made academic gains in reading and math this year and were honored for their achievements in our Students Recognition Ceremony. The students discussed how using computers to study helped them gain confidence in classes and enhanced their capacity to learn.
I also remember one of my students who was unable to send emails, so she was missing interview prospects and not able to respond. After learning how to access her emails and how to respond back, she received a job offer.
What advice would you have for the next cohort of Fellows?
- Ask for help: You never want to feel like you are alone in this process, and you aren’t. Future cohorts will have the unique advantage of learning from previous Fellows, and being able to use the research and resources that have come out of past Fellowship years. As the first cohort, we have built the groundwork for those who are coming after us.
- Document everything: Nothing is too much information. During this fellowship, you are going to be collecting a lot of data and stories. It’s better to have too much information than to not have enough. You also want to make sure you are providing yourself with enough data to work with.
- Have fun: It is a fellowship, but you will also meet some amazing people who will change your life for the better. Having different points of view to help you complete your projects is always helpful. Again, you are never walking alone in this process.
Where do you want the digital inclusion conversation in Atlanta to go in the next 5 years?
Atlanta is still far behind many of the other cities in the rollout of digital inclusion and how we will tackle the lack of accessibility and affordability. With the NTEN fellowship experience, we have begun the conversation with community leaders and partners to forge sustainable relationships moving forward. Five years from now, Atlanta will be much better served because of the groundwork we have set during this year.
There are multiple organizations in Atlanta facilitating this conversation. Thinking through how we can engage the community to close the digital divide and create sustainable and useful programs will make our city more marketable and a place where everyone succeeds.
DeAndre continues to work at Literacy Action as the Student Support Manager. He also provides support to Literacy Action’s new Digital Inclusion Fellow, Rondalene Wright.