Steven Henry

Steven Henry Takes on New Role as Manager of Connect 313’s Community Ambassador Program

Steven Henry Takes on New Role as Manager of Connect 313’s Community Ambassador Program

 

Throughout his career as a community advocate and grassroots organizer, Steven Henry has worked to build trust and engagement with Detroit residents. Affable and articulate, Henry will now bring his innate communication skills and programming acumen to his new role as manager of Connect 313’s community ambassador program

Deeply rooted in the city, Henry, who holds a master’s degree in social justice from Marygrove College in Detroit, is rolling-up his sleeves and getting to work doing what he’s passionate about and dedicated to: building digital equity across the neighborhoods of Detroit.

“I live and breathe Detroit,” Henry said. “And COVID 19 exposed all the negative consequences to residents who are not fully connected in the 21st century. In my experience at the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance (ONA), I found homes without high-speed internet, and people without the appropriate devices not able to access healthcare, education, and work during lockdowns. These folks are disadvantaged and that has to change.”

Communities often have more agency than they think, Henry says, and there are options and resources to be leveraged. He believes that’s where Connect 313’s community ambassadors can be most effective. 

In his new role, he plans to build visibility for each ambassador within his or her designated district through participation in community events, neighborhood fairs and within existing outreach services. The challenge and the reward, he says, is educating ambassadors new to grassroots organizing.

“My goal as manager is to grow the team’s skills and knowledge and elevate the ambassador function to a higher level as we more fully flesh-out this program,” he explains. “We’ll take what we’ve learned and move to greater things while expanding our reach to deliver more resources.”

Along the way, Henry will continue building on the trust Connect 313 and its partners have earned among Detroiters while working on greater buy-in from the public he serves. 

“That makes the difference,” Henry said. “And that’s what Connect 313 is all about – how the community ambassadors will effectively carry out the organization’s mission of a fully digitally inclusive city.”

He fondly recalls the first computer classes offered at the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, which also serves as a Connect 313 Tech Hub and is where Henry served as an early community ambassador. 

“Initially, there were just one or two people participating. But as we spread the word, more and more students engaged. Today, classes are typically full and there is sometimes a waiting list,” Henry said.

He credits ONA’s success to both programming quality and consistency, along with responsiveness to the community’s needs.   

Henry’s first brush with community outreach was in the healthcare field, where he collaborated with a variety of organizations focused on wellness initiatives. 

“I quickly learned the value of visibility and transparency when engaging fellow city residents,” Henry explained. “It’s essential to build trust and deliver on promises among people who are often underserved and, sometimes, under-delivered to.”

Now, as Henry marshals a team of ambassadors across each of the city’s seven districts, he’ll be striving to link Detroiters to available digital resources while demonstrating to participants the power of advocating for themselves. 

“With oversight of the entire city, I will be working to create this wingspan of inclusive options across all of Detroit’s districts,” he says. “I see the community ambassador role as a key element of Connect 313’s mission to bridge the digital divide.”

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Cast Your Vote for Connect 313’s Future Leaders

Cast Your Vote for Connect 313’s Future Leaders

 

Help Connect 313 start the new year off strong with a new set of Chair and Vice Chair members to lead our efforts in 2023. You only have until the end of the month (December 31) to cast your vote for the elected leaders who will guide our committees, implement the community’s ideas and suggestions, and develop the policies and procedures that help bridge Detroit’s digital divide.

 

To vote, you must be a Connect 313 member. If you’re already a member, you should have received an email and/or text with a unique voter link. If you didn’t receive the message or can’t find your link, please email to info@connect313.org.

 

Not a member yet? You can still sign up at connect313.org/membership (by December 31) to receive your voter link. We use the digital voting platform Election Buddy. All nominees are listed on the platform. You’ll also find the list of committees and this year’s nominees below:

 

Devices & Connectivity

  • Alvin Lockett
  • Bartel Welch
  • Maria Montoya
  • Lenderrick Bridges

 

Structure & Operations

  • Brian Condit
  • JR Sledge
  • George Jackson
  • Andrew Melton

 

Digital Literacy & Skilling

  • Asia Browner
  • Alvin Lockett
  • Bartel Welch
  • Mia Harnos
  • Joy Porchia
  • Lenderrick Bridges
  • Richard Ramirez
  • Shayla Zimmerman

 

Policy, Advocacy, & Ecosystem

  • Richard Ramirez
  • Ron Norwood
  • Phyllis Edwards
  • Greg Anderson
  • Angela Meyers

 

Special Projects & Shared Resources

  • Brandon Duncan
  • George Jackson
  • Shayla Zimmerman
  • Angela Meyers
  • Asia Browner
  • Andrew Melton
  • Ron Norwood
  • Mia Harnos
  • Phyllis Edwards
  • Greg Anderson
  • Joy Porchia
  • Shadora Ford

 

Each member can only vote once. To learn more about our election process, view our FAQ document. Thank you for being part of the ongoing effort to bridge Detroit’s digital divide. All of us at Connect 313 are looking forward to another productive and impactful year in 2023.

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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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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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Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet:

In a Press Release issued by the Biden-Harris Administration  announced over $25 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding to Help Ensure Every American Has Access to High Speed, Affordable Internet.  The City of Detroit is listed as an example of how this work is successfully being carried out.

“Detroit, Michigan will begin construction this summer, using $10 million in Fiscal Recovery Funds, to pilot a fiber-to-the-home connectivity project to approximately 2,000 homes in the Hope Village neighborhood with affordable 1 Gig service.”

To learn more about Detroit’s Fiber to home project checkout our blog post about why this work is important and the City of Detroit’s Digital Inclusion & Equity Page for updates.

You can read the full fact sheet detailing the funding for the American Rescue Plan Funding here.

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Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village

Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village  

Losing internet access for 45 days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is something Jeff Jones will never forget. The longtime HOPE Village resident, a husband and father of school-aged children, recounted that harrowing ordeal during a series of community meetings held at Focus:HOPE to discuss Detroit’s digital equity plans. The City of Detroit hosted the meetings. 

“For one or two days, [losing internet access] is not a problem. You can do without your Netflix,” he told the crowd. “But my kids were in school virtually. We lost our internet, and we lost our phone service. Instantly our neighborhood was shunted back to the 19th century. We couldn’t connect to the internet. Our lives were interrupted.” 

 Jones reached out to everyone he could. Day two became week two and his frustration and the community’s hardship grew. Eventually, he connected with Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion, and service was restored. But that 45-day outage is a stark example of why an investment in the city’s internet infrastructure is urgently needed. 

 Beginning this summer, a $10 million pilot project will deliver high-speed fiber optic internet access to every home and business in HOPE Village, located between the Lodge and Davison Freeways, Dexter to the west, and Hamilton to the east. Using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the effort will dramatically improve access and reliability. Property owners will be invited to ‘opt in’ and participate. 

 “We hope this new project will reconnect our neighborhood, [and] put us on a path to a bright and prosperous 21st century,” Jones said. 

Connect 313 Leads the Charge 

The idea for an automated open access network originated with a recommendation from Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a city-wide, data-driven inclusion strategy. The Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation, and Connect Humanity provided funding for initial research, engineering, and network design. 

“We want every Detroiter to have affordable, reliable and abundant digital access that elevates local communities and accelerates opportunity,” said Edmonds. “Using public funds to invest in an open public infrastructure is something that will spur private investment and drive private competition.” 

How will Detroit’s fiber optic infrastructure work? Multiple providers will have access to the same fiber lines, fostering competition and lowering costs for customers. The city is studying different ways to minimize costs, as well as a sliding scale for residents with lower incomes. 

Open access operates like our airports and roads,” Edmonds explained. “The city provides the infrastructure and internet service providers can use the fiber lines the city installs to deliver service to residents.” 

It is estimated that a fiber optic system will last more than 50 years. As more internet speed is needed, cables will not need to be changed, making this an effective long-term solution. The goal is to eventually install fiber optic lines to homes and businesses across the entire city. 

 “It’s about making sure that every single person is empowered with the devices, with the internet connectivity and the digital literacy training that they deserve, and that they have a right to,” added Laura Granneman, Vice President, Rocket Community Fund.” 

 “There absolutely is a digital divide and gap in this city,” said Angela Calloway, Detroit City Councilwoman for District 2. “Your zip code should not matter whether or not you have access. I am so absolutely proud of the efforts that you are making.” 

Information and updates will be posted on the city’s Digital Inclusion & Equity page. 

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