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 Sol Katia Jimenez to give us an update on her work with the Salt Lake Education Foundation in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What advice would you have for the next cohort of Fellows?
Know that your convictions can easily adapt—but you must stick to them.
I became interested in this Fellowship because I am passionate about community work. It is my conviction that all individuals, with the appropriate tools in hand and support at base, are capable of reaching their fullest potential. As an active member of my community, I have taken the role of an advocate and service provider to give my community members the support necessary for them to become self-empowered and find their tools.
Because of this personal philosophy, I was able to take on a project in digital inclusion, an area in which I had no prior experience, and make something impactful and meaningful out of it. Knowing where your passions lie and what they mean to you is perhaps the most important thing in taking on this Fellowship. Add some hard work and patience, and the rest will fall into place.
When you think of what your community has accomplished this year, what are you most proud of?
Our tireless persistence in sticking to the approach we know works to build the capacity of our adult education programming.
In the past year, my community has been very successful in creating and expanding access to adult education opportunities and services. I am proud of this accomplishment, and to be part of a community that takes an asset-based approach toward both the services and interactions that happen. Every individual in the community is valued for who they are and what they have to offer. With this approach, we are able to be strategic in the building and implementation of adult education opportunities.
What is something that have struggled with and overcome/learned from?
With time all will be well; be patient.
Far too many times through the course of this Fellowship, I found myself muddled in the minor details of the project. Taking on a project that was a blank canvas with absolutely malleable properties was incredibly exciting. However, there were moments when it seemed easier to scrap all the sculpting that had gone into the project than to actually keep molding. As my project took a more defined shape and the picture became easier to interpret, I began to reflect on my moments of absolute frustration. I realized that by believing in the potential of the project and my desire to keep building it, it was simply a matter of time before everything started to fall into a more functional place. In retrospect, the little details that made me feel so helpless at times were pretty insignificant compared to the level of impact my project has made.
How have you grown this year?
The working world is a lot more pragmatic than a liberal arts classroom—deal with it.
The primary purpose of this Fellowship is to bridge the digital divide, but it has fulfilled another, more personal purpose. It has been my personal bridge, transitioning from college into the working world. Through this experience I learned some valuable lessons. Particularly, I learned what it means to be an active part of an organization and, moreover, what it means to work for a nonprofit organization. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that my actions as an individual while part of an organized body affect more people than just myself.
How can you see yourself applying what you have learned to your future endeavors?
My love for doing community work has only been reinforced and I hope to keep doing it.
Through this Fellowship, I learned how much I value the role I play in my community—to dedicate my time and energy to the community and work towards a common goal. This is something that I will carry on and apply to any future endeavors.