NTEN is pleased to introduce the 2018 Digital Inclusion Fellows. These 17 emerging leaders represent the best of community and public service professionals. We are thrilled that they are joining the Fellowship to hone their skills and develop new and enhanced digital literacy programs for adults. The fourth cohort of Fellows work at a variety of nonprofits and social service agencies, ranging from housing authorities and community development corporation to libraries and city governments, and more. What they share is a commitment to empowering individuals and communities by helping them get online.
Becky DeForest started out as an elementary school teacher but found herself drawn to adult education and its rewarding combination of teaching and public service. She has worked as an adult ESL and ABE instructor, Spanish teacher, textbook editor, and job readiness trainer, and is currently the Program Director of Literacy Works. In this role, she provides professional development to teachers, tutors, and staff at adult education programs and other community-based organizations in Chicago. Literacy Works believes it is important to share digital literacy training knowledge with instructors as well as staff at a wide range of community institutions so that they may recognize and reduce technology-based barriers for participants. Becky is committed to creating a community where all residents can access the opportunities that our digital age offers, and no one is left behind.
Andrew Farrelly, Rising Tide Capital, Jersey City, NJ
Over the last few years, Andrew has worked for and with several nonprofits in the mental health and micro-enterprise development sectors. He has a particular interest in social, economic, and digital activism which he integrates into his role as Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Rising Tide Capital. He holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Toronto with a specialty in finance and economics, and a certificate from The Miami Ad School Account Planning Program. When not working, Andrew can be found cooking and apologizing to people that can’t hear him in loud rooms. He really is trying; his voice just happens to be the exact pitch and timbre as background noise.
Anthony Hale is the Technology Training Center Coordinator for the Huntsville/Madison County Library in Huntsville, Alabama. He has worked over 5 years providing many levels of computer instruction from basic PC skills and online job search assistance to advanced classes in Word and Excel, while keeping informed about his community and developing classes to provide the tools necessary for success in the local economy. He also works with Huntsville Chamber of Commerce to provide computer classes for those looking to improve small businesses. He is also a member of the North Alabama Chapter of the International Systems Security Association where he serves as the Secretary of the Board. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Memphis, where he previously held an adjunct faculty position. He is currently serving an adjunct faculty position at the Redstone Arsenal campus of Columbia College.
Chris Hernandez serves as communications director for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. The City Communications Office handles media relations, social media, the city’s website, and community engagement, while also producing original video programming and graphic design services for the city’s departments and programs.
Chris was previously known as “that guy on the news” during more than 20 years as a television news political reporter and analyst, working in cities as diverse as Amarillo, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois.
Chris volunteers with and serves as a board member for several local nonprofit agencies. His passion for storytelling, adventures, community engagement, and innovation make him a favorite emcee and speaker at banquets, awards ceremonies, and conferences.
Sonya Hunte serves as the Director of Family Engagement for the Atlanta Public Schools. She promotes family and alumni strategic initiatives through district-wide and school-based models that increase the academic and life outcomes for about 52,000 children. She is the immediate past president of the National Association of Social Workers, Georgia Chapter and now serves on the national board as the Region VI Representative. Sonya’s genuine love for disenfranchised communities is both recognizable and contagious.
With a career and civic leadership that spans 17 years, Sonya is the recipient of many awards including Unsung Heroine 2015, National Coalition for 100 Black Women, Inc., Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter, Georgia Trend Magazine, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2013 Forty Under Forty Awards, and Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta Strong Award 2013.
She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Boston College.
Munirih Jester has been working with digital inclusion efforts for the past 4 years. Currently, she is the Digital Inclusion/ConnectHome Coordinator for San Antonio Housing Authority and is a co-founder and lead member of the San Antonio Digital Inclusion Alliance, a citywide coalition that aims to bridge the digital divide. Munirih is a former Digital Inclusion Fellow who helped create a collaborative and sustainable approach for digital training that leveraged existing community resources to support computer literacy training for ConnectHome participants.
Munirih also worked as an intern with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Texas Association of Telecommunication Officer and Advisor, where she had the opportunity to work on a pilot project aimed at expanding digital opportunity for the Texas border region. She also worked on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas publication “Closing the Digital Divide. A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations.”
Munirih is originally from Brazil and has an educational background in public policy, nonprofit management, and urban and regional planning.
Evert Keller is a digital literacy program specialist working for Austin Public Library, in Austin, Texas. He has done digital inclusion work for over a decade. Before acceptance into the NTEN Fellowship, Evert’s most recent digital inclusion project helped evacuees from Hurricane Harvey develop the skills to navigate FEMA’s benefits application process. He also served in the Peace Corps from 2005 to 2007 in the South American nation of Suriname.
Cegee holds a bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In her career as a communications professional and entrepreneur, she works day to day with use of innovative online platforms that enhance professional, career, and learning capabilities. Most recently, she has transitioned into teaching ESL and Adult Basic Education, with effort to fully incorporate digital technology into her teaching. Her passion for creative communications coupled with her affinity for advancements in digital technology drives her motivation for wanting to bridge the gap in her community.
Oleg Nepliouev is the head technician and teacher at Triangle Ecycling, a computer and electronics recycling company in Durham NC. He is responsible for the company’s computer refurbishing efforts which incorporate the education and technical training of local public high school students. Students participate in a semester-long internship working in the business to enhance their technical knowledge and soft skills, and provide a leg up into college or a job directly into the IT industry. Over the last 5 years the program has had more than 80 interns successfully graduate. Oleg also promotes digital literacy at local job fairs, career symposiums, and grade 3–12 classrooms.
Oleg leads Triangle Ecycling’s work “repurposing computers for good” with local nonprofits such as the Durham Literacy Center, Partners for Youth Opportunity, Boys & Girls Clubs, El Centro Hispano and Families Moving Forward. This effort teaches a virtuous circle of local businesses and governments donating computers which are refurbished by public schools students in training and then repurposed when installed by the students in local nonprofits that support the community.
Born with autism, Nick Roberson is sometimes unable to successfully articulate her thoughts to others, which has led her to bouts of mutism and public avoidance. However, because of Nick’s digital knowledge and access, she has the ability to pay bills online, order groceries, and most importantly, telecommute some assigned projects assigned by her employer at the Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Collaborative. Via the Collaborative, Nick learned that similar to her, individuals and families who are generationally impoverished, senior citizens, and those who have behavioral and physical health challenges are statistically marginalized. Oftentimes they lack adequate digital literacy and access to digital equipment needed to utilize online tools for educational achievement, paying bills, and attaining valuable resources. Digital literacy and inclusion are Nick’s passion and she endeavors to bridge the digital divide in Atlanta, Georgia for the least of the least, empowering one person at a time.
Bianca Rozenblad entered the digital inclusion sphere last year as a ConnectHome AmeriCorps VISTA with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. As a native of Youngstown, Ohio, Bianca’s overall goal is to help better the cohesiveness of people and entities within Northeast Ohio. Her education background includes a BA in International Relations from Duquesne University and a recent Master’s of Urban Planning, Design & Development degree from Cleveland State University. Her areas of interest include GIS mapping, sustainability, and urban/regional planning. Bianca is excited to continue her work in helping to bridge the digital divide for all residents within greater Cleveland.
Heather Salters is the child of a librarian and grew up feeling as if the library was her second home. When deciding on a career path, she could not imagine working anywhere other than a library. With over 15 years in public libraries, she has worn many hats from shelver to branch manager. Currently, she is the Continuing Education Services Coordinator for DeKalb County Public Library in the metro Atlanta area. She is active in volunteering at community events. In her free time, she reads teen novels, rides bikes, and visits national parks.
Lindsey Sipe has served the Charlotte community as an educator for the past 9 years. After three years in the classroom she earned a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Michigan State University. She embodies integrating technology into education and has worked with teachers from all over the nation to emphasize technology to reach the needs of all learners. During her tenure as the technology coordinator for Project L.I.F.T., Lindsey found her true passion by infusing digital inclusion and social justice into her continued work with schools. She works with various partnerships throughout the Charlotte community to help students and families in the West Corridor of Charlotte gain access to devices as well as connectivity. Lindsey believes that technology can provide resources, tools, and education, ultimately providing the potential for upward mobility for underserved families within Charlotte.
Patricia Steward, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago, IL
Patricia Steward is a manager at the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and has over 25 years’ experience working in the nonprofit industry. She currently has oversight of nine Digital Resource Centers (DRCs) located throughout CHA’s housing developments and community centers. She has been instrumental in providing broadband and technology services to residents in an effort to bridge the digital gap. She enhanced the DRCs by upgrading with touch screen computers, access to Wi-Fi services, charging stations, and extended evening and weekend hours to accommodate CHA’s families. She has a Master’s Degree in Human Performance and Training and is committed to assisting residents with their endeavor toward self-sufficiency.
Joanne was born in Chicago and holds a BA in French from the University of Illinois. Always an adventurer, she has lived and worked in France, Pakistan, Egypt, and Qatar. Joanne is fluent in French and can get by in Arabic. Communication has always been important in her choice of jobs. In Qatar she was a journalist for French and English radio stations, the local press and Qatar TV. In Paris, after teaching English for many years, she became Academic Director at a language school. Upon her return to Chicago she spent four years developing and teaching Cognitive Fitness programs before accepting a position teaching English as a second language and citizenship courses. A member of Toastmasters International, Joanne received the Distinguished Toastmaster Award, the highest level of educational achievement in Toastmasters. Joanne looks forward to this new adventure of enriching lives by making the digital world easily accessible to all.
Claire Warnick has been the Volunteer Center Manager and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Regional Coordinator at United Way of Central and Southern Utah for the past two years. Prior to this position, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for one year promoting early childhood literacy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities and a Master of Arts degree in Comparative Studies from Brigham Young University. Claire is passionate about helping all people in the community access the skills and resources they need in order to achieve their goals.
Demetrius O. Williams currently has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management, along with a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration, both from John Carroll University. His professional career has afforded him the opportunity to work with a number of great organizations and many trailblazers within the nonprofit community throughout the city of Cleveland, Ohio. Demetrius’ passion for outreach and community development has inspired his desire to help his community in the areas of workforce development, fundraising, and youth empowerment.