David Luea: An integral contributor of a transformative initiative

David Luea: An integral contributor of a transformative initiative

As Connect 313’s Digital Inclusion Initiative Project Manager, David Luea always stays busy.

“From the Community Ambassador program to the Neighborhood Tech Hubs, I am responsible for organizing and contributing to the development of digital equity impact projects in Detroit for Connect 313,” David says. “My job is to help develop and assess program strengths and identify areas for improvement.”

David joined Connect 313 in 2021. Since then, he’s supported the launch of 17 Neighborhood Tech Hubs, helped develop Connect 313’s Community Ambassador program, overseen more than $300,000 in committee-funded programs, and witnessed 100,000 Detroiters sign up for low-cost internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program.

“I’m proud to be an agent of change for Detroiters, and I love working alongside dedicated teams to bridge the gap between technology haves and have-nots,” he says. “The ability to witness the positive transformation of individuals and communities, while fostering collaboration and embracing innovation, makes this role both fulfilling and impactful.”

David graduated from Ferris State University in 2008 with a focus on advertising, marketing, and business. At Connect 313, he works closely with the marketing department to promote programs and community partner events.

“The most rewarding aspect of this role is being able to contribute to such an important and transformative initiative,” says David.

His work is making a difference. Connect 313 has helped close Detroit’s digital equity gap. In 2020, 40 percent of Detroiters were digitally included. This year, the number is closer to 70 percent.

“I hope to see a future in digital equity where universal high-speed internet access is a reality and underserved communities have equitable access to devices and digital literacy programing,” David says. “If Connect 313 continues to amplify our collaborative partnerships and collective efforts, I believe we will see 100 percent of Detroiters being fully digitally included, sooner rather than later.”


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DDIW 2023 Panel Looks at Advancing Digital Literacy in Detroit to Promote Workforce Development

DDIW 2023 Panel Looks at Advancing Digital Literacy in Detroit to Promote Workforce Development

Recognizing that a tech gap exists in Detroit’s talent pool, a panel of experts got to work October 2 at Wayne State University exploring how to advance digital literacy across the city to promote workforce development. Their conversation was part of a series of informative and interactive panel discussions marking the start of this year’s Detroit Digital Inclusion Week powered by Connect 313 

“We are building pathways to accessibility for digital tools and technology so everyone can become digitally literate,” said Myka Burley, associate director of skills at Michigan Central and panel moderator. “When we take those tools and employ them in ways that empower people economically, we get into real workforce development initiatives.” 

Burley was joined by Christine Burkette, director of Digital Equity & Inclusion, the City of Detroit, Department of Innovation and Technology; Jai Oberoi, senior VP of data intelligence for Rocket Mortgage; Germaine Reece, business diversity manager at Central CDW; and Jose Reyes, executive director for NPower.  

Their conversation was wide ranging and punctuated by personal anecdotes and insights from careers dedicated to technology and to advancing opportunities for populations often underserved or left behind. Jose Reyes recalled being in the computer lab at the University of Michigan decades ago and losing a paper because he didn’t know how to properly operate the Apple computer he was working on.  

“Many families experience that lack of tech literacy every day because connectivity and technology are not in their reach. Ours was one of them,” Reyes shared. “We have to be passionate about this effort and see this issue as generational because if the parents don’t have digital equity, then their kids won’t either.” 

Panelists agreed and said that every opportunity must be leveraged to meet people where they are … a notion often cited throughout the day’s four panel discussions. 

“We can’t assume people know,” Burkette said. “So, when you’re distributing devices start literacy then and put information where they’re at, not necessarily on paper, and make it multilingual.” 

Each panelist noted the critical role of bringing together employers and community organizations to increase digital literacy, mitigate the tech gap and help potential employees overcome what many see as systemic barriers. 

“Sometimes life happens and impacts a person no matter how accountable she or he is,” Dr. Sledge explained. “At Per Scholas, we’re not just looking for the brightest and the best because when I can take somebody who was hesitant about IT and had life issues, and I can support them and facilitate their growth and certification … I’ve done my job.” 

Finally, Burley asked the panelist what they hoped the tech employment landscape in Detroit would be in five years, and to consider the impact of AI and the rapid pace of tech advancement.  

Burkette called out a variety of demographic groups – veterans, returning citizens, non-English speaking residents – with differing needs and forming teams to address those needs, while Jai Oberoi mentioned the concept of “leap frogging.” 

“With the acceleration of technology and AI, employment must leapfrog,” Oberoi shared. “The concept of starting with an entry level job gets replaced with talent hopping four or five levels in one move because the technology is already in their hands and what workers thought was out of reach is now actually within their grasp.” 

Lastly, and for a second time that October day, the idea surfaced that Detroit could again serve as a global hub for technology and advancement bolstered by a talented workforce hungry for opportunity and uniquely equipped to move with the speed of innovation. 

Special Thanks to DDIW Sponsors and Partners 

Detroit Digital Inclusion Week was generously sponsored by DELL, Comcast, Verizon and Wayne State University, and supported by Connect 313 partners the City of Detroit, Rocket Community Fund and United Way for Southeastern Michigan. 

Boost your digital literacy by taking advantage of Connect 313’s network of 22 Neighborhood Tech Hubs, meeting with a Community Ambassador to learn more about available resources, submitting a suggestion for a community initiative, signing up for the Affordable Connectivity Program by calling 313-241-7618, receiving free digital skills training and tech support and more, and becoming a member at connect313.org. 


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DDIW23 Panel Focuses on Research, Policy and Digital Equity and Access

DDIW23 Panel Focuses on Research, Policy and Digital Equity, Positions the Internet as a Utility Required for Everyday Life

A series of informative and interactive panel discussions at Wayne State University on October 2 marked the start of this year’s Detroit Digital Inclusion Week powered by Connect 313. The day’s first panel of local experts, assembled to discuss digital equity policy and research, grew animated as they described what a digitally included Detroit might look like.

“Closing the digital divide in Michigan appears different depending on where you are in the state,” said Allie Herkenroder, Michigan’s digital equity director. “We can’t just put a one-size-fits-all solution everywhere and have it work.”

Herkenroder was joined by City of Detroit CIO Art Thompson, Johnnie Turnage, CEO of Even Score and Black Tech Saturdays, Dr. Pierrette Dagg with Merit Network, and Stephanie Vaughn, lead innovation educator with The Hidden Genius Project. The conversation was moderated by Scott D. Woods, president of the public-private partnership Ready.net.

“We need to be thinking about the systemic issues that caused this to begin with,” added Dagg. “Digital equity is not a problem of devices and it’s not a problem of infrastructure, it’s a social issue.”

While each panelist illuminated the complexities of achievingcomprehensive digital inclusion, they all agreed on a few key points to effectively light the way forward.

First, the panelists agreed that broadband access is a needed utility, rather than a luxury, in today’s digitally integrated world. Participants cited the pandemic as bringing this fact into sharp focus, leaving those on the wrong side of the digital divide without access to online healthcare, education, or employment. At the time, anyone without a broadband connection, an appropriate device, and the skills to use it was left behind.

They also agreed on the importance of “meeting people where they are.”

Herkenroder discussed findings from a recently completed statewide listening tour, which started and ended in Detroit, to hear directly from citizens about their digital access priorities.  

“We heard … ideas, questions, and concerns at every single one of our 43 stops throughout Michigan with the number-one identified broadband barrier for Michiganders being availabilityand number two: affordability,” Herkenroder recalled. (Region 10 community participants, in which Detroit is located, placed affordability as the top barrier rather than access, which was listed as second.)

Dr. Dagg reinforced the importance of local voices when she talked about the need for champions of digital inclusion such assupportive local governments and a varied, already existinglandscape of federal funding that communities can leverage.

“For me, digital equity looks like how we get people to a certain level of confidence and competence to even talk about it,” added Turnage. His initiative, Black Tech Saturdays, draws hundreds of people each week to network, share ideas and solve problems at Newlab, near the reinvigorated Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

Finally, the five panelists agreed that as with any complex issuethe best place to find a solution starts by establishing common ground.

“If you look at the internet, it is a utility, it is something we need for everyday life,” Thompson said. “We need to do something that’s going to leave an everlasting effect and drive up adoption of resources. It has to be transformative.”

Special Thanks to DDIW 2023 Sponsors and Partners

Detroit Digital Inclusion Week was generously sponsored by DELL, Comcast, Verizon, and Wayne State University, and supported by Connect 313 partners the City of Detroit, Rocket Community Fund and United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Boost your digital literacy by taking advantage of Connect 313’s network of 22 Neighborhood Tech Hubs, meeting with a Community Ambassador to learn more about available resources, submitting a suggestion for a community initiative, signing up for the Affordable Connectivity Program by calling 313-241-7618, receiving free digital skills training and tech support and more, and becoming a member at connect313.org.

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Maria Montoya is Helping Connect Families to Essential Digital Devices

Maria Montoya is Helping Connect Families to Essential Digital Devices

Maria Montoya serves as chair of Connect 313’s Devices and Connectivity Committee. She’s passionate about working with communities to ensure children and families have what they need to succeed. 

“I have never met a parent who doesn’t want the best for their child or their family, but, more often than not, barriers exist to them being able to access their full ability to reach their dreams,” Maria said. “Sometimes that’s knowledge and other times it can be actual tools, such as a device.”

Maria got involved with Connect 313 through Brilliant Detroit’s partnership with Human-I-T. She’s a former journalist whose desire to help families inspired her to change career paths.

“I spent the first half of my career covering celebrities, children and families, and education as a features writer at USA Today and the Times-Picayune (New Orleans),” she shared. “I moved into education and advocacy work in 2008 when I left journalism to be part of a team of parents pushing for better access to public schools and childcare in New Orleans.” 

That work ultimately led Maria to Detroit. 

“I have lived here for seven years, and what I love about the city is very similar to what I love about New Orleans – the people. This city’s love and appreciation of its culture and history is evident, even among very young Detroiters,” Maria said.

At Connect 313, she’s working to close the digital divide by ensuring families with kids have the devices they need and stable, low cost or no cost Wi-Fi. She focuses on collaboration and efficiency to best serve the people of Detroit.

“Connect 313 is a community-centered initiative that anyone can get involved in and I truly believe what’s made it so remarkable is the fact that there is room at the table for everyone,” she said. “Part of the reason why our city is leading in closing the digital gap is because every voice is being included in the work. We should never stop pushing ourselves to make sure the community is at the heart of all the decisions we make.”

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Meet Shadora Ford, your District Five Community Ambassador

Meet Shadora Ford, your District Five Community Ambassador

High-energy Shadora is the founder and leader of Destined for Greatness, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering and motivating at-risk girls and young women in Detroit to do things that once seemed impossible. DFG provides training in hygiene, self-esteem, education, and job readiness along with groceries, household supplies, summer youth jobs and back-to-school essentials. In her role, Shadora understands the need for all Detroiters to have equal access to high-speed internet and the skills needed to navigate our digital world.

Read on to learn more about your District Five community ambassador.

C313: Tell us about your district and what makes it special?

Shadora: District 5 is a thriving community of folks who have been underserved and overlooked yet remain resilient enough to create lifelong histories shared from generation to generation. I grew up in 48214, and as a resident I appreciate the many programs and organizations, such as MACC Development, delivering essential services to those in need.

C313: How do you describe your work with Connect 313 to your family and friends?

Shadora: Connect 313 is providing FREE digital literacy classes, affordable internet and low-cost devices to Detroiters. With partners such as Rocket Mortgage, Infinity and Human IT we have community ambassadors in each of Detroit’s seven districts. I’m proud to have helped in the creation of 17 Connect 313 Tech Hubs across Detroit, for residents to enjoy! #POWEREDBYDETROIT

C313: Why do you love being a community ambassador?

Shadora: My God given purpose, passion and pride comes from helping people! In my role as a community ambassador, I have the privilege of helping people sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which means more people can experience low cost internet from the comfort of their own home.

C313: Tell us one surprising fact about yourself?

Shadora: I was born at 5555 Conner Street in Detroit, at what was then Mercy Hospital. Since 2010, I have mentored over 15,000 girls and helped nearly 50,000 families at the same 5555 Conner Street address, where I created the Destined for Greatness Mentoring & Community Resource Center!

C313: Favorite thing about Detroit?

Shadora: Detroit is home sweet home and a beautiful, diverse blend of innovative people who have coined catchy phrases for the world to repeat such as “What Up Doe?” and “Detroit vs. Everybody.”

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Meet Debra Anderson, your District Seven Community Ambassador.

Meet Debra Anderson, your District Seven Community Ambassador. 

Debra serves on the board of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations (DABO), which is a federation of some 130 black and non-black organizations working to build a stronger community through a variety of services including HIV and suicide prevention, substance abuse support and COVID-19 resources. Additionally, DABO is a Connect 313 Tech Hub where Detroiters can access computer hardware, internet technology, digital literacy programming and tech-savvy staff. Visit DABO at 12048 Grand River, in Detroit.  

Read on to learn more about Debra, your District Seven community ambassador.  

C313: Tell us about District Seven and what makes it special? 

Debra: District 7 is located in the heart of a robust residential community with businesses, community and recreation centers, parks and churches where our residents can engage, learn and thrive. 

C313: How do you describe your work with Connect 313 to your family and friends? 

Debra: The DABO Community Center in District 7 offers many services to the public including a health clinic, senior exercise and dance programs, youth summer employment, a meeting place for local block clubs, and a live radio broadcast every Saturday, where I announce Connect 313 services and events. 

C313: Why do you love being a community ambassador? 

Debra: I love being a Connect313 Ambassador because it gives me an opportunity to offer valuable services to the community, youth, families and seniors.  

C313: Tell us one surprising fact about yourself? 

Debra: I am the official field-trip guru for my church and the DABO center because I enjoy planning excursions to the many cultural, fun and educational sites in our city. We’ve visited the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Motown Museum, and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center to name a few. 

C313: Favorite thing about Detroit? 

Debra: I love the Riverwalk, which has won first place twice as the best riverwalk in a US city, our cultural and educational sites, and our great ethnic restaurants. 

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Connect 313 Grant Supports Digital Equity Work at Per Scholas

Connect 313 Grant Supports Digital Equity Work at Per Scholas

“Per scholas” is a Latin phrase meaning “through the schools.” In Detroit, Per Scholas translates to a successful nonprofit delivering no-cost, hands-on tech training in the city and across Southeast Michigan. 

Founded in New York in 1995, Per Scholas came to Detroit in 2019 with the mission of advancing economic equity by training participants for tech careers and connecting skilled job candidates to local businesses eager to diversify their talent base. 

“Since our launch in Detroit, we’ve trained 350 individuals in different IT careers and have consistently achieved 85 percent employment rates for our graduates, who earn industry recognized certifications in five IT tracks,” said Senior Managing Director of Per Scholas Detroit, Dr. JR Sledge. 

Dr. Sledge says Per Scholas changes the trajectory of adult learners who are caught in the digital divide and have limited resources. The nonprofit does this by offering its career-ready training in both classroom and remote settings and establishing partnerships with businesses hungry for the program’s qualified tech talent. 

Funding Digital Equity

And that’s why Connect 313 provided Per Scholas with a generous $50,000 grant to support its continued work in digital equity and inclusion.

“With Connect 313’s support, Per Scholas is able to provide learners with the tech devices they need, deliver immersive IT training, and give students the confidence to effectively work in a professional setting,” Dr. Sledge shared.

In fact, Dr. Sledge estimates that Per Scholas graduates earn as much as eight times the salary they did before their training. Students are required to begin working following graduation, with the goal of discovering their tech niche and returning to upskill through additional Per Scholas training.

“Importantly, our learners are making an economic impact on the area because as higher wage earners they are stronger consumers,” Dr. Sledge explained. “What’s more, Per Scholas graduates are adding much needed diversity to tech businesses throughout the region. And we know that a more diverse workforce translates into more successful enterprises.

“Per Scholas is committed, deliberate and intentional about creating opportunities for a diversity of people in the IT space and helping to ensure economic equity and inclusion,” Dr. Sledge continued. “We aim to shift the current landscape of IT professionals and continue to change lives.” 

Visit perscholas.org to learn more about cost-free training for an IT career.

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Meet Fadiah Yahya, your District Six Community Ambassador

Meet Fadiah Yahya, your District Six Community Ambassador

Fadiah starts her day at the Bridging Communities organization, located at 6900 McGraw Avenue, across from Dingerman Park in Detroit. As the community ambassador to Detroit’s District Six, she’s dedicated to bringing everything internet to neighborhoods across the area. Read on to learn more about Fadiah.

C313: Tell us about District 6

Fadiah: District 6 in southwest Detroit has a unique range of diverse neighborhoods including Mexicantown, Hubbard Farms, Spring Village and others. It’s a multicultural community that shares valuable cultural heritage and resources.

C313: How do you describe your work to friends and relatives?

Fadiah: I am the Connect 313 District 6 Community Ambassador, which means I am here to serve to the best of my ability. I help connect Detroiters to appropriate devices and digital resources for improved learning, employment and wellbeing and tell them about internet discount programs. Detroit deserves to be known as digitally equipped and its people digitally included. Whenever I can, I share the Connect 313 website address, talk about tech hubs, encourage suggestions and support participation in our monthly community conversations.

Connect 313: Why do you love being a community ambassador?

Fadiah: I love that I am able to make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s a big change or a small one. It truly makes me happy! There’s nothing more valuable and rewarding than being the person who can honestly answer questions without making someone feel uncomfortable or unworthy of my time. I am providing digital resources and empowerment and ensuring all residents have access to affordable, reliable digital technology.

Connect 313: What is your favorite thing about Detroit?

Fadiah: My favorite thing about Detroit is the people. I have travelled in the United States and overseas and couldn’t find that peaceful feeling that I feel being in Detroit. Regardless of the news, I still find Detroit the best city and full of culture, history, and always vibrant.

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Connect 313 Funds Early STEM Camps for Detroit Middle Schoolers

Connect 313 Funds Early STEM Camps for Detroit Middle Schoolers

Just before the pandemic shut everything down in 2020, Cleary University’s Detroit Education Center launched a special STEM program for the area’s middle schoolers. The idea was to use LEGOs as literal building blocks to expose naturally curious fifth through eighth graders to the elements of basic robotics and computer coding.

“It’s important to Cleary University that it makes a difference in the communities it serves,” said Latasha Ellis, director at the DEC. “We started this program to provide STEM learning for students in underserved areas where there might not be exposure to this type of activity.”

Classes were online until 2021, and then schools across Michigan began returning to in-person teaching. But for Ellis, the program’s earlier switch to a virtual setting had revealed a gaping digital divide.

Understanding the value of STEM education in addressing the divide, Ellis contacted Connect 313 to request funding support. In response, Connect 313 provided a generous grant of $18,500, which Cleary was able to use for STEM camp scholarships, supplies, and the children’s lunchtime meals. Today, Critical Thinking with LEGO® is a popular program with two week-long camps in the summer and two six-week weekend programs throughout the winter. Since 2020, more than 100 children have participated.

Under the instruction of Cleary University professors, students use LEGO blocks to build robots or cars and then code them to move. Coding can include instructions to pickup a block, push a swing, cross a bridge, or even dance.

“Every child knows and loves LEGOs and that makes them a great way to introduce new concepts and ways of thinking,” Ellis said. “In this program, we’re exposing kids to coding, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and a host of experiences that will help them be successful in just about every part of their lives.”

Both winter and summer camps are held at Cleary’s DEC location in the Durfee Innovation Society, next to Central High School where neighborhood children are given the first opportunity to enroll.

“We give kids in the Central High community the first chance to register so that if there is limited access to transportation, they can still participate,” Ellis explained.

And participation is what it’s all about for Ellis and the team at Cleary University. By providing Detroit middle school students with access to technology, Cleary, with the support of Connect 313, is fostering a digitally included community.


This summer, camps are June 26 – 30, and July 10 – 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Durfee Innovation Society, 2470 Collingwood St, Detroit, MI 48206. Lunch is provided. Call 800-686-1883 for more information or to register or use the QR codes below.

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Closing the Digital Divide is Music to Alvin Lockett’s Ears

Closing the Digital Divide is Music to Alvin Lockett’s Ears

“There is no place like Detroit,” says Alvin Lockett, who is better known as “Aj.”

Aj is vice chair of the Devices and Connectivity Committee at Connect 313. He was born and raised in Detroit and has had a passion for technology for as long as he can remember. 

“So many people and organizations need access to technology, and I wanted to be part of the team that makes that possible. Lack of access is a barrier, and to be a solution to that problem is so enjoyable,” he says.

Aj is a Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit alumnus, and executive director of RTTM Community Center, a Detroit nonprofit that builds hope and access through resident introductions to news industries, individuals and ideas. Additionally, Lockett leads Que Blackout, a youth theater nonprofit focusing on technical theater and content creation. 

“My love of technology and arts merged, and seeing young people create and find jobs in tech, theater and marketing makes my day.”

Lockett initially got involved with Connect 313 at Digital Inclusion Week. After learning more about the program’s mission to bridge the digital divide and connect people with the resources they need – he knew he wanted to play a more prominent role.

In his position at Connect 313, Aj helps grassroots connectivity efforts by ensuring funding goes to organizations that need it the most. 

“As much as I love my city, there can be a considerable gap between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The Devices and Connectivity team’s goal is to help organizations that fall within the $50,000 to $100,000 range, that target families and communities that need extra help.” 

For Aj, it’s fulfilling work he wants everyone to be part of.

“My life’s mission is to provide hope and access. As part of this team, I can help more people have both,” he says. “I hope others find a way to get involved. Every action builds upon the next; we look up, and it’s a movement.”

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