Meet Jennifer Jambor, An Amazing Human From human I-T

Meet Jennifer Jambor, An Amazing Human From human I-T

Succeeding in today’s high-tech world starts with the very basics – a device, internet access, and the proper skills needed to use these digital tools. Jennifer Jambor with human I-T has seen firsthand the difference it can make to get affordable computers into the hands of Detroiters in need.

“I’ve been in front of families that have literally been in tears and told me, ‘We’ve never had a device before,’” she says. “We are truly giving them the opportunity to achieve goals and change the trajectory of where their family will end up.” 

Jennifer manages the Devices & Connectivity committee at Connect 313. It’s a natural extension of her job as Senior Manager of Partnerships and Impact at human-I-T, an organization that provides devices, internet access, digital skills training and tech support in Detroit and other communities struggling to bridge the digital divide. They also empower businesses and organizations to donate devices, diverting technology waste from landfills.

“We believe access to technology is a right, not a privilege,” Jambor explained. “It’s what allows people to study remotely, apply for jobs, attend telehealth appointments, connect with distant family members, or explore new ideas and perspectives. In order to shrink the digital divide, we make it easy for our partners to do good together.”

One of the original and most impactful projects has been the Connected Futures Program, a multi-organizational mission that supplied 51,000 students with tablets, hot spots, and tech support. “When we think about the impact that program made during a critical time for students learning in the City of Detroit, that feels really good,” Jennifer says.

Since opening in Detroit in August 2020, human I-T has:

  • Created 28 jobs at its Focus:HOPE facility; 14 held by Detroit residents
  • Distributed 14,042 laptops and tablets (in addition to the 51,000 mentioned above)
  • Connected 2,756 households to high-speed, low-cost internet
  • Distributed more than 1,000 WIFI hotspots
  • Handled 17,750 tech support calls for DPSCD students
  • Processed more than 1 million pounds of e-waste

“All those initiatives are a perfect example of how when you bring the right people together into a room and you’re all collaborating around the same mission and vision, a significant impact can be made, and we’re able to see that,” Jennifer says.

And there’s more to come. Human-I-T plans to launch its first retail store in Detroit in 2023 that will give people the opportunity to learn more about the types of technology available, buy low-cost devices, take part in training, and ultimately feel supported every step of the way.

How to get a computer now

Residents of Detroit who would like access to low-cost computers, laptops, and tablets, or help getting reduced-rate broadband internet, or tech support or training can call 888-391-7249 or visit Human-I-T.org

How to donate an unneeded computer

Detroit businesses can take advantage of the partnership with human-I-T to recycle and donate technology that they no longer need. With a simple phone call, donors can access human-I-T’s industry-leading IT asset disposition services. human-I-T will arrange an equipment pickup, securely wipe devices of sensitive data, refurbish, and update them, and donate them to local community organizations and individuals who lack access to technology. Damaged or broken items are also accepted for end-of-life product disposal. All donations are tax deductible.

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Connect 313 and City of Detroit Honor Digital Inclusion Superheroes

Connect 313 and City of Detroit Honor Digital Inclusion Superheroes

Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week (DDIW) recently revealed what many in the city already know: That Detroit is humming with digital superheroes working hard to ensure students, residents, small business owners and community organizations have the devices and digital skills they need and affordable, reliable internet access.

And, if you’re wondering why work in the digital equity space is so important, take a look at how investigators from The Markup recently uncovered that Detroiters are paying big money for slow internet service. The report shows white residents are paying the same price for faster speeds.

During Day 2 of DDIW, Connect 313, the City of Detroit, and sponsor DELL honored four digital inclusion champions working tirelessly to connect Detroiters across the city. They are:

· Small Business Hero: Rachael Allen, Operations School

· Digital Inclusion Advocate(s): Detroit Community Technology Project

· Digital Inclusion Nonprofit: Detroit Residents First Fund

· Youth Advocate: CODE 313

The ceremony took place on the campus of Wayne State University. The Small Business Hero of the Year award went to Racheal Allen, CEO of Operations School. Focused on small businesses and nonprofits, from start-up to grassroots to mature, Racheal has channeled her passion for operational excellence to help hundreds of organizations adopt tech systems and best practices.

“I started Operations School because leveraging technology and embracing automation is especially challenging for entrepreneurs of color due to the digital divide,” Allen says. “That’s where my team and I can really help.”

Detroit Residents First Fund was recognized as the Digital Inclusion Nonprofit of the Year. The nonprofit was formed in 2016 with support from the Ford, Kellogg, and the Erb Family foundations. DRFF dispersed some $175,000 in tech support stipends to Detroit nonprofit leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through unrestricted grant funds for tablets, laptops, subscriptions, and internet access, we helped several organizations continue to be productive and successful despite the world shutting down around us,” said Daija Butler, director of systems planning at the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. “This award gives us the motivation to keep doing what we’re doing.” 

The Detroit Community Technology Project earned the Digital Inclusion Advocate of the Year award for its commitment to making community technology accessible to all Detroiters. Since 2014, the project has developed comprehensive programming and organized to help decentralize tech resources, making technology that’s rooted in community needs and strengthening connections between neighbors and the planet.

“This has been a decades-long journey of community-led digital justice work,” said Katie Hearn, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. “[This award] is an acknowledgement of the many visionary Detroiters who have modeled what it means to have community at the center of solutions.”  Knowing the challenges ahead, it’s this legacy that will guide our shared commitment to connecting the disconnected and realizing digital equity.” 

CODE 313, which provides equitable access to STEAM education, received the Youth Advocate of the Year award for its dedication to creating learning opportunities and career pathways for young people. Since 2019, CODE 313 has served approximately 50,000 Detroit students at more than 55 schools, providing coding camps, interactive classes and workshops. CODE 313’s STEM Academy became a Connect 313 Neighborhood Tech Hub this past summer to expand its programming and its reach.

“Technology and learning are how we help children, families, and communities break the cycle of poverty and empower people of all ages to dream, aspire and achieve,” said Bartell Welch, executive director of CODE 313. “Thank you to Connect 313 and the community for this recognition.”

Detroit Digital Inclusion Week took place October 3-7, bringing together resources, experts and members of the community to advance the conversation around digital inclusion and engage the many partners working to create and sustain true equity in Detroit.

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A Connect 313 Grant is Keeping Families Together

A Connect 313 Grant is Keeping Families Together

The bond between a parent and a child is one of the most important relationships in a child’s life – and it’s critical for their development. But, for kids with incarcerated parents, the separation adds a barrier – one Developing Despite Distance (3D) aims to break through.

“When [kids are] connected to their parents, they show up better in schools, on their sports teams, and in their community spaces because they’re getting that support,” says Tiffany Brown, 3D’s Founder and Executive Director. “My mother was incarcerated when I was a teen and we maintained a positive connection, despite me only being able to visit her one time in almost 4 years.”

The Detroit-based non-profit supports young men, ages 10-18, whose parents are incarcerated. The 3D team helps with letter writing, group counseling, field trips, and prison visits, all of which are key to nurturing parent-child relationships. Unfortunately, during COVID, prison visits stopped for nearly 2 years. Even now, visits are still restricted behind plexiglass walls.

To keep kids connected, Tiffany applied for a Connect 313 tech grant. The grant gave 20 children Chromebooks that they’re using to communicate with their parents.

“It felt like Christmas when we pulled those Chromebooks out that day,” Tiffany says. “I think the more we can provide access and minimize barriers, that’s exactly what we need to be doing for young people, just give them the opportunity and they’ll take it beyond what even we are thinking about.”

Although Tiffany says nothing compares to face-to-face visits, the laptops provide families a key tool to send emails and photos and get near-instant feedback from their parents, who are often hundreds of miles away. They also hope to add video chat capability soon.

“I know that parenting from prison can still be effective with the right level of support,” Tiffany says. “I’m really thankful for this [grant] and I’m thankful that the Connect 313 team made it really easy for us to apply. [This kind of support is what] non-profit leaders, like myself, have really, really been hoping for and dreaming of.”

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Join Us for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week

Join Us for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week

Digital inclusion brings opportunity, education, and connection. Ensuring all Detroit residents have access to the digital world is Connect 313’s fundamental goal.

Join us October 3-7 as Connect 313 hosts Detroit’s fourth annual Digital Inclusion Week, a 5-day event that promotes digital equity and highlights digital inclusion efforts happening across the Motor City. Throughout the week, Connect 313 will celebrate the organizations and leaders helping to  bridge the digital divide, activate partnerships and activities to increase community engagement, and connect Detroit residents to free information and resources.

“A big portion is connecting with the community where they are. You can’t assume that people know what’s out there,” said Kaleena Louis, Connect 313’s Policy, Advocacy, and Ecosystem vice chair who’s been working to help plan the event. “This year we’re looking forward to putting on an amazing week for the city that will have more in-person engagement.”

The event includes special events, panel discussions, hands-on activities, and more. Detroiters who attend will have the opportunity to take part in one of Connect 313’s free digital empowerment workshops.

This year, on day 2, Connect 313 will host its Inaugural Research Symposium. More than a dozen academic professionals will gather to reflect on the past decade of digital inclusion and highlight modern-day initiatives through presentations, workshops, panels, and roundtables. The Research Symposium is designed to be a day of learning. Speakers will cover numerous topics including digital equity and inclusion, supporting children in the classroom, creating digitally accessible neighborhoods, and more.

The full schedule is as follows:

  • Day 1 – Leadership and Stakeholders
    • Learn from digital inclusion leaders through talks and panel discussions.
  • Day 2 – Academic Research Symposium: A Decade of Digital Inclusion
    • Amplify digital inclusion research from the last decade through interactive presentations, panel discussions, and screen-side chats.
  • Day 3 – A Focus on Small Business
    • Offer tangible support to local entrepreneurs to help them run and scale their companies.
  • Day 4 – Connected Communities
    • Provide interactive opportunities for Detroiters to learn, engage, and become more digitally connected.
  • Day 5 – The Future is NOW: Engaging Youth in a Meaningful Way
    • Engage with Detroit youth to help increase awareness and opportunities that exist in the digital world.

Don’t miss this amazing week! Register for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion week here.

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How Connect 313 Provided Chromebooks to Keep Kids Cooking

How Connect 313 Provided Chromebooks to Keep Kids Cooking

Food is more than fuel, it’s a way to connect, converse, and create change. At the Detroit Food Academy, they’re teaching students ages 10-24 culinary and leadership skills by bringing classes together in the kitchen after school.

“Our students would say it’s an after-school cooking club, but we do a lot more than that,” says Executive Director Julie Wainwright.

Before COVID, chefs traveled to about a dozen Detroit schools, bringing with them kitchen burners, blenders, bowls, whisks, and all the ingredients to craft students’ favorite meals – like chicken alfredo, which includes making pasta from scratch.

But the pandemic caused a barrier Detroit Food Academy needed to break through. They bought a van and began delivering food and cooking supplies to student’s homes. However, many kids didn’t have the technology needed to connect to their afterschool leadership programs via Zoom. So, Julie reached out to Connect 313 for help.

“The digital inclusion piece is really important to me and Connect 313, and I think that’s where we were mission aligned,” Julie says.

Thanks to a grant from Connect 313, the Detroit Food Academy received 50 Chromebooks that went directly to Detroit kids.

“It allowed our students to be significantly more engaged with our program,” Julie says. “You can have Zoom up, you can have the recipe up, you can cook a lot easier than having a phone propped up on your kitchen counter.”

The Chromebooks not only help students take part in the program, participants can also use the laptops for school, jobs, and internship applications. The team is heading back into classroom this schoolyear, but students will still use their laptops to learn.

“If they didn’t have that device, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services we do,” Julie says.

For more information on the Detroit Food Academy, visit their website.

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Connect 313’s FREE Digital Literacy Playbook is Available Now

Connect 313’s FREE Digital Literacy Playbook is Available Now

Digital literacy is key to bridging the digital divide. But, ensuring people have the basic skills they need to be comfortable and confident online can be difficult, especially in tech’s ever-changing environment. That’s where Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Playbook comes in. You can access free online resource now, by clicking here.

“Some people say they don’t want to use digital technology because there’s too much to learn, but that’s just fear,” says Shadora Ford, Connect 313’s Special Projects and Shared Resources chair. “I want people to get over that fear by teaching them and finding creative ways to do so.”

Connect 313’s new Digital Literacy Playbook is designed to helps people learn basic digital literacy skills and gain confidence. It includes a digital literacy curriculum and users guides to help people find a device, connect to the internet, and get started with video calling.

“It also includes tips for learners, educators, and organizations to help them utilize the playbook,” says, Qumisha Goss Connect 313’s Digital Literacy and Skilling Committee management lead who helped build the Digital Literacy Playbook.

In addition to the playbook, watch our Instagram page for Tech Tip Tuesday, our social media campaign that share simple tips and resources – including digital discounts and tech terminology. There’s also an information library to help people find, evaluate, and use information, as well as cyber security education to ensure people keep their passwords and accounts information secure.

Using the curriculum Connect 313 created, participants can take or teach online computer-focused courses. Examples include “Introduction to Computers,” a class that teaches people how to use a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Those a bit more familiar with technology can take the “Basic Computer Skills” course, which teaches users how to manages files, use a flash drive, and the Internet.

“It’s not that [people] don’t want to be involved, it’s that they’re afraid of not knowing,” says Naimah Wade, Connect 313’s Director of Research and Learning. “Give yourself permission to make mistakes… jump in even if you’re nervous about what you don’t know. You may be wonderfully surprised.”

For more information about the Digital Literacy Playbook, visit Connect 313’s website.

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How A Community Suggestion to Connect 313 Launched a Summer Tech Camp for Kids

How A Community Suggestion to Connect 313 Launched a Summer Tech Camp for Kids

When people think about Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, video gaming immediately comes to mind. But, these days, gaming can be more than a hobby – it can lead to a lucrative career. That’s why Osborn Neighborhood Alliance Community Ambassador Steven Henry, a self-described ‘tech geek,’ submitted a proposal to Connect 313 for a two-week technology and gaming camp. Connect 313 provided a grant to bring the summer camp experience to life for more than two dozen Detroit-area students ages 8-17.

“Connect 313 has been an open book because they’ve always said, if you have a project or something you’re interested in, submit a proposal,” Steven says. “Ultimately, what I want (the kids) to learn about is gaming and the profession, as well as gaining an understanding about themselves, their goals, and the skills needed to achieve their dreams.”

The camp is currently underway (August 15-26) at the Matrix Center on McNichols, led by the Philadelphia-based group Nerd Street Gamers, a video game company that brings electronic sports, or esports, to communities across the country.

“We love working with kids,” says Ben Beaver, Senior Manager of Youth Camps and Programming at Nerd Street Gamers. “We want them to know that gaming and technology can pay you and it can pay well and it can open doors that otherwise wouldn’t be there. You can get into college through scholarships, which is still growing, but we want them to understand those opportunities exist.”

At the camp, students don’t just play video games, they learn how to build them. They’re also learning about the digital divide, how to bridge the gap, build relationships, and set goals.

“We did an activity earlier today asking them what they want to be when they grow up, so we had them write these things on an index card: How much do they want to make? Where do they see themselves in a few years? Where is some place they want to go in the near future?” Steven explained. “Those things help you to hone in on what their goals are, and we can work on those goals.”

Steven hopes the camp sparks newfound excitement for the endless opportunities a career in the tech world holds – opportunities Detroit students can take advantage of with the tools, skills, training, and access Connect 313 helps to provide. Have a great suggestion? Visit: https://connect313.org/suggestions/ and tell us more!

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Jordan Falby on Connect 313’s Grassroots Approach

Jordan Falby on Connect 313’s Grassroots Approach

Jordan Falby is a self-described “jack-of-all trades,” crafting grant agreements, offering technical assistance, collecting reports, and sharing metrics and information with the Connect 313 collaborative.

She is Connect 313’s Structure & Operations Program Manager, which pairs well with her role at United Way for Southeastern Michigan where she’s the Manager for Collective Impact & Digital Inclusion.

“The core mission of Connect 313 has always been driven by meeting people where they are now, listening to what actual Detroiters say, trying to do our best to align resources with what people actually need, and really trying to understand a layer deeper,” Jordan says.

One of her favorite aspects of Connect 313 is the grassroots approach that’s taken to get people the resources they truly need.

“Even though it’s harder to do it this way, we do not want to just come in and dictate,” Jordan says.

Each month Connect 313 holds meetings that anyone who lives, works, or learns in the City of Detroit can attend. At the meetings, people give feedback, are involved in the decision-making process, and discover local programs and services.

“We invite folks to come and give constructive criticism on any idea we’re looking to implement,” Jordan says.

An exciting pilot project helping to bridge the digital divide is the effort to begin building a high-speed fiber optic infrastructure in HOPE Village. Jordan hopes to see the publicly owned, privately-operated network expand throughout the city.

“A lot of the struggle for many people is you can get a device, but if you can’t afford to consistently have access to the internet in your home, so the device’s capabilities are limited,” she says. “By building this infrastructure we’ll be able to achieve more reliable, affordable service for Detroiters.”

To reach Jordan, email jordan@connect313.org.

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Qumisha Goss is Building Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Playbook

Qumisha Goss is Building Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Playbook

If you’re wondering how these blog posts get on Connect 313’s website, Qumisha Goss is the person who makes it happen. Qumisha is Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Subject Matter Expert and the Management Lead of the Digital Literacy and Skilling Committee.

Before joining Connect 313, Qumisha was a librarian at the Detroit Public Library Parkman branch where she created and ran information and digital literacy programming for the community. Now, she is working hard to create resources for people interested in digital literacy training, including building Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Playbook.

“The Digital Literacy Playbook will include a digital literacy curriculum, and user guides to help people get started with finding a device or internet service and get started with video calling,” she explains. “It will also include user tips for learners, educators, and organizations to help them utilize the playbook.”

Watch our website and social media channels for more details on the playbook soon.

Qumisha was motivated to help bridge the digital divide in part because she loves Detroiters and is passionate about setting them up for success in the digital world.

“Detroiters are resilient and hardworking and its always amazing to see how people make a way for themselves, even with limited funds and resources,” she says. “Learning people’s stories really makes me feel passionately about helping them to demystify technology so they can continue to do great things. Technology is just a tool, and it should feel helpful and not like a burden to people.”

“The work of bridging the digital divide has been and continues to be done by several grassroots initiatives and local organizations and churches throughout the city,” Qumisha adds. “At Connect 313, we want to be a convener and unifier of those different entities so that we can quickly and efficiently bridge the digital divide together.”

As Qumisha works with the team to build new tools and resources for residents, says she would love to see Connect 313 model replicated in other places.

“It’s rare that we have an opportunity for the suggestions and needs of everyday citizens to be supported by the knowledge and financial backing of experts and philanthropist,” she says. “It really is a dynamic relationship.”

To contact Qumisha, email qumisha@connect313.org.

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Total Health Check Presentation

Total Health Care Foundation awards $150,000 to benefit Connect 313

Total Health Care Foundation awards $150,000 to benefit Connect 313

On a crisp, clear afternoon at the Detroit Golf Club, the Total Health Care Foundation awarded the Rocket Giving Fund a $150,000 grant to benefit Connect 313, a collaborative organization that aims to close Detroit’s digital divide. The check presentation took place at the AREA 313 Celebrity Scramble on Tuesday, July 26, part of the activities leading up to the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40% of Detroit homes were without broadband internet access. In a 2019 survey by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Detroit ranked as the least connected large city (more than 100,000 households) in the country. Priority Health is committed to taking steps to improve health equity across Michigan by addressing factors including social determinants of health such as lack of technology, digital access, digital literacy and educational training.

“The inability to access the internet has been identified as a ‘super determinant’ of health and can have a significant, long-lasting impact on people’s well-being. The Rocket Community Fund and Connect 313 are helping shine a light on this critical issue that often impacts our most vulnerable citizens,” said Shannon Wilson, executive director of the Total Health Care Foundation and vice president of Population Health & Health Equity at Priority Health. “Along with other dedicated community partners, Priority Health and the Total Health Care Foundation are committed to ensuring that all people have access to the resources they need to live their healthiest and most prosperous lives.”

The Rocket Giving Fund, the nonprofit that administers the Rocket Mortgage Classic, works closely alongside Connect 313 partners Microsoft, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Rocket Mortgage, and City of Detroit, with the goal of ensuring every Detroiter has access to the internet, technology and digital literacy programming within a 10-minute walk of their home.

“On behalf of our dedicated Connect 313 partners, we are grateful for Priority Health’s commitment to Detroit residents through their generous donation in support of critical digital inclusion efforts,” said Laura Grannemann, Rocket Giving Fund board member. “This commitment will help build neighborhood tech hubs, provide residents with technological devices and support digital literacy programming that ensures Detroit residents are equipped with the tools they need to thrive in our digital-first world.”

Formed as part of the merger agreement between Priority Health and Total Health Care, the Total Health Care Foundation has committed to providing millions of dollars in grants over the next few years. To date, more than $8 million in grants have been distributed to organizations throughout Detroit and Southeast Michigan.

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