From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

“I worked in Detroit, I play in Detroit, I worship and go to church in Detroit,” says David Underwood, chair of Connect 313’s Devices and Connectivity committee. “I care a lot about the city, and I care a lot about its people, and I want to make a difference.”

David Underwood has spent nearly four decades in Detroit. For 38 of those years, he worked with DTE Energy, most recently as a principal account manager. He retired in 2021, but these days he’s busier than ever. With Connect 313, David is focused on activating the community and making sure residents have the resources and devices they need to access the internet.

“I consider myself a change agent and a champion for the underdog. I’m trying to make a difference out here,” he says. “Those who don’t have access to tech are finding themselves at a risk and that needs to change.”

Since starting with Connect 313, David has helped to coordinate computer giveaways and has worked to connect people with subsidized internet access funded by the federal government. However, he says there’s still work to be done.

“We’re looking forward to building an open-access fiber optic infrastructure in Detroit, beginning in the Hope Village neighborhood,” he says. “It’s also crucial that we get more community engagement and get more residents involved.”

David is working to do just that by connecting with corporate partners and community-based organizations, spreading the word on billboards, and creating campaigns that people without internet access will see.

In addition to his work with Connect 313, David is the managing director for Detroit Community Care Network, a position he’s held since 2017. The faith-based organization serves people and families by connecting them to programs, services, resources, and information.

In so many ways, he is proud to be a champion for the underserved in the Motor City.

To reach David, email dunderwood@tnhccn.com.

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Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis proudly calls herself a ‘legacy Detroiter.’ As Connect 313’s Policy, Advocacy, and Ecosystem vice chair, she supports the city where she was born and raised by connecting people to digital resources.

“A big portion is connecting with the community where they are. You can’t assume that people know what’s out there,” Kaleena says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much is out there today and how accessible things are, people just don’t know.”

One way Kaleena is helping Connect 313 spread the message is through Digital Inclusion Week, which will be held Oct. 3 – 7, 2022. The annual event promotes digital equity in Detroit by raising awareness about home internet access, devices, technology training programs, and many important topics and issues.

“Last year was my first year with Digital Inclusion Week,” she recalls. “This year, we’re looking forward to putting on an amazing week for the city that will be more inclusive and have more in-person engagement, while remaining COVID safe.”

In addition to her work with Connect 313, Kaleena serves as program director for NPower where she helps launch digital careers for underrepresented and underserved youth, military veterans, and their spouses.

According to NPower, today more than 50% of all jobs require some degree of technology and skill. Kaleena says that number will increase to more than 70% by 2030.

“The jobs are quickly growing, but there are certain people in our community who aren’t necessarily ready because of the barriers they face. Connect 313 navigates those barriers, and bridges the gap to help people overcome those barriers,” she says. “If people can’t afford internet, we have plans for that. There are parts of the city where fiber is being infused. People don’t know what they don’t know, and we need to be that voice to spread the word.”

As a lifelong Detroiter, Kaleena feels a special connection to the Motor City and wants to do everything she can to advocate for technology access and education, especially for Detroit youth.

“It means something to me to know that for my children and their peers, if they want to get into tech, they don’t have to go to Silicon Valley. They can get the skills and training and jobs right here in Detroit,” Kaleena says.

 

You can reach Kaleena by emailing Kaleena.Louis@npower.org.

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Shadora Ford Asks, “What is the Barrier?”

Shadora Ford Asks, “What is the Barrier?”

Shadora Ford wants to help families not just survive but thrive. As Connect 313’s Special Projects and Shared Resources chair she provides education, training, and resources to connect the public with essential technology to help bridge the digital divide.

In 2010, at just 19 years old, Shadora founded Destined for Greatness, a Detroit-based organization that educates, encourages, and empowers young women to become strong leaders. To date, Destined for Greatness has helped more than 5,000 young women and served more than 10,000 families through mentoring, job training, food drives, and more.

“In order for a house to stand you have to fix the foundation,” said Shadora. “We’re helping fulfill the destiny of households, not just women, but all families and people.”

A few years ago, Shadora began conducting research studies to learn more about Detroit’s digital divide. “Is the barrier the devices, the connectivity, or is it the literacy of the individual?” she said. “Research shows it’s a mix.”

Which meant the approach had to be multifaceted. She’s teaching students Microsoft Office, showing seniors how to utilize technology to take part in telehealth appointments and send emails, and connecting veterans to digital resources.

“Some people say they don’t want to use digital technology because it’s too much, but that’s fear. I want people to get over the fear by teaching them and finding creative ways to do that,” said Shadora.

Looking ahead, Shadora wants to see all seven districts thrive with digital literacy programs. She plans to expand her research and outreach to ensure Detroiters know tech assistance is available.

“Being here for the past 30 years and loving the community made me want to be an ambassador,” said Shadora. “I want Detroiters to love Detroit and take care of Detroit, love the place they live and be connected.”

To reach Shadora, email dfgmentoring@yahoo.com or call 313-414-3680.

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Connect 313’s Jamie Harris has 3 Main Goals

Connect 313’s Jamie Harris has 3 Main Goals

Connect 313’s co-chair of Digital Literacy & Skilling, Jamie Harris, has spent more than a decade connecting the community to career opportunities, including many in the tech industry. Her three main goals are to train, empower, and employ. Jamie is the founder and CEO of DSDT a Detroit School for Digital Technology. The state licensed technology trade school offers nationally accredited programs designed for the world of entertainment, media, and technology.

“It’s about believing in your community,” she says. “When I started this school people thought I was crazy.”

She has certainly proven them wrong. Her hard work and experience paired perfectly with Connect 313’s mission to bridge the digital divide.

“We’re all really dedicated to the mission of serving our community,” she says. “If we see a need, we get on it and make it happen. It’s not for the faint of heart and it takes a team with passion.”

Last year, Jamie served as Connect 313’s chair for Special Projects and Shared Resources where she helped with the budget and spearheaded strategies that introduced construction workers to digital architecture.

“You can drive around anywhere and see building after building going up,” Jamie says. “We’re innovative, there are so many ideas and city initiatives, as well as new entrepreneurs, black owned businesses, and women-owned businesses that are popping up everywhere around here.”

As the demand for information technology grows, Jamie and the Connect 313 team are working to advance digital equity by creating neighborhood tech hubs Detroiters can use to access computers and the internet.

“There is such a huge demand and the greater we evolve as a community and as a city, the greater the community thrives,” she explains.

Jamie is proud to call Detroit home and eager to continue her work connecting community members to resources, education, and support that will set them up for success in the ever-evolving digital world.

“Detroit has been looked at as an underperformer in the past and it’s great to see Detroit expanding and innovating,” she says. “Our city is now back on the map. We’re

all stronger together. It’s rewarding to see what we’ve done and to be a part of that growth and that history.”

To reach Jamie, email jamie@dsdt.tech.

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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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2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

Detroit Means Business  hosted its inaugural small business summit on May 2, 2022.  The event  offered tangible takeaways for strengthening business, including 1:1 Expert Consultations, Live Panels and Workshops.  Connect 313 was proud to participate in this event to support local Detroit businesses utilize digital resources to promote and strengthen their business.  Myka Burley Connect 313’s Community Manager is an active participant in Detroit Means Business as a member of small business x digital divide committee.  Autumn Evans Connect 313’s Operations Director spoke on a panel about pro tips for digital business success, where she also shared details about how the city of Detroit is working to bridge the digital divide.  Qumisha Goss Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Subject Matter Expert also attended the morning session to give 1:1 Consultations on Digital resources.

During our 1:1 Consultations we met with the following Detroit businesses

Some lessons we’ve learned and some tips for small businesses.

  1. Maintaining a digital presence takes time and dedication.  Set a schedule for yourself to regularly post to or update your website or social media presence. Rachel Wood of the Art Loft has a beautifully updated website and strong web presence and she shared with us that she spends a lot of her time keeping her web presence up to date.  There are also digital tools available to assist you with this process. Learn More.
  2. Digital Marketing can be daunting, finding your tribe or a group of like-minded people can help you get a leg up.   The Gospel Music Cafe has successfully marketed their ball room dance classes and poetry events by sharing their events with local facebook groups.
  3. Your Business Acumen, Knowledge and Passion will drive your business. Digital Tools and Technology are just tools to support you. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices, and options.  You know your business best, think critically about what you need help with and access your own willingness to learn new technology or systems your self or a hire a professional as needed. Valaise  at Tried and True Financial shared her digital business Card with us, a cool digital tool by HiHello.Hi Hello Business card

Check out https://www.detroitmeansbusiness.org/  for more tools and resources to support your business.

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Tigers Stadium Rocket Mortgage

Rocket and the Detroit Tigers are teaming up to Support Connect 313

Rocket and the Detroit Tigers are teaming up to support Connect 313 bridge the digital divide

To help end the digital divide in Detroit, Rocket Mortgage announced a new promotion in conjunction with its Tigers Partnership. Each time a Tigers player hits a home run off the “Rocket” foul poles, Rocket Mortgage will contribute $5,000 to the Connect 313 Fund. If the home run results in a grand slam, the company will contribute $20,000 to bring digital connectivity and literacy to Detroiters.

Click here to learn more about this partnership.

 

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Rocket Giving Fund directed $700,000 to Connect 313 Fund in support of landmark digital inclusion initiative

Rocket Giving Fund directed $700,000 to Connect 313 Fund in support of landmark digital inclusion initiative

In 2021 The Rocket Mortgage Classic raised 1.35 million dollars. $805,000 of which has been reinvested in Community partners in support of the “Changing the Course” initiative.

$700,000 was directed to the Connect 313 Fund.  The Connect 313 Fund has tirelessly worked to impact the outcome for Detroit residents, ensuring that households become digitally included and that residents are able to access job training, education, telemedicine and other necessities that are the hallmark of a connected and thriving community. These efforts have led to – 67.5 percent – of Detroit households becoming digitally included after only 30 percent enjoyed that status three years ago.

 

Click here to learn more about the Rocket Giving Fund’s contributions to bridging the digital divide..

 

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Rocket Mortgage & Detroit Lions Support Digital Inclusion

Rocket Mortgage & Detroit Lions Support Digital Inclusion

This past football season Rocket Mortgage and the Detroit Lions teamed up to bridge the digital divide for our neighbors here in Detroit with the Rocket Mortgage Red Zone.

Every time the Lions scored points in the Red Zone, Rocket Mortgage and the Detroit Lions donated $1,000 to Connect 313.  Through this Partnership, Connect 313 was awarded $35,000 to help provide internet connectivity and digital access for Detroiters.

Click here to learn more about this initiative.

 

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2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic Generates More Than $2.7 Million for Nonprofits

2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic Generates More Than $2.7 Million for Nonprofits

The Rocket Mortgage Classic, in partnership with title sponsor Rocket Mortgage, today announced it generated more than $2.7 million for nonprofits from proceeds raised by Detroit’s second-annual PGA TOUR event. More than $2.4 million will be invested through the event’s “Changing the Course” initiative, which aims to bridge the digital divide in Detroit.

Funds are disbursed by the Rocket Giving Fund, the 501(c)(3) that manages the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic launched Changing the Course earlier this year with a mission to bridge the digital divide for all Detroit residents through equitable, data-driven investments in access to technology, internet and digital literacy. Detroit is the least connected major city in the country, and in light of COVID-19, it is clear now more than ever that access to online learning, employment, health and connectivity is a critical component of a resilient, vibrant community. Changing the Course is a multi-year initiative that is committed to holistic, sustainable access to internet, technology and digital resources for every Detroiter within a ten-minute walk of their home.

Charitable proceeds raised from the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic totaled $2,716,770. Last year, the event donated $1.2 million to its primary beneficiaries, with more than $1.1 million directed to nonprofits based in the city of Detroit.

2020 Disbursement

Donations were made by the Rocket Giving Fund to the following organizations in support of its Changing the Course initiative:

  1. $2.1 million to the Connect 313 Fund, developed by the Rocket Mortgage Classic in partnership with the City of Detroit and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan with engagement from community, philanthropic and business stakeholders. The Connect 313 Fund is rooted in the City’s digital inclusion strategy and is a coordinating mechanism for all digital inclusion stakeholders driving collectively toward the singular vision of bridging the digital divide. In addition to coordinating a city-wide, data-driven digital inclusion strategy, the Connect 313 Fund will make investments into Detroit-based nonprofit partners to increase access to technology, internet and digital literacy resources.
  2. $344,450 to Children’s Foundation, which supports pediatric research, education, community benefit programs and other initiatives that improve the health of children in Michigan. Children’s Foundation is also fiduciary for First Tee Greater Detroit, which impacts the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. This partnership will provide youth-centric nonprofits the resources they need to bridge the digital divide within their programming, including the following allocations from this investment:
    • $165,000 to Midnight Golf, which helps under-served young people transition from high school to college and into a professional career.
    • $100,000 to Detroit Police Athletic League (Detroit PAL), a Rocket Mortgage partner that builds character in young people through athletic, academic, and leadership development programs.

“This year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic is a testament to the boldness and ingenuity of the entire team, who understood the unique opportunity we had to use this event to bridge the digital divide in Detroit. We are committed to Changing the Course and working tirelessly to deploy resources and foster greater equity and digital access for Detroit residents and families.”― Jay Farner, Chairman of the Rocket Giving Fund and CEO of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT)

The Rocket Giving Fund also made the following disbursements:

$150,000 to the Greater Palmer Park Community, a collection of seven neighborhoods around Palmer Park and the Detroit Golf Club dedicated to the holistic improvement and advancement of the entire area.

$122,320 to the Birdies for Charity program, which supported 74 verified nonprofit organizations and allowed them to use the Rocket Mortgage Classic as a free vehicle to raise awareness of their organizations and funds to support their missions.

“Like all other PGA TOUR events, our overriding mission is for the Rocket Mortgage Classic to serve as a vehicle to support the nonprofits that do such amazing work in our community, and it has been amazing to see so many people come together this year in particular to get behind such a great cause,” said Jason Langwell, Executive Director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “We will continue to work every day toward Changing the Course and addressing this great need right here in Detroit.”

Connect 313 Fund

The Connect 313 Fund is a community-driven digital inclusion strategy focused on four strategic pillars:

  1. Collecting accurate neighborhood-level data on technology, internet access and digital resources.
  2. Building and supporting neighborhood technology hubs by investing in trusted community centers to grow technology resources.
  3. Empowering and financially supporting residents across the city to become digital literacy ambassadors in their respective neighborhoods.
  4. Coordinating city-wide fundraising and public advocacy for systemic change in digital inclusion.

The Connect 313 Fund has already engaged local nonprofit Data Driven Detroit and national data analytics firm Civis to do a neighborhood-by-neighborhood assessment across the city to understand gaps in access to the internet and technology. This analysis, slated to be completed in advance of the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, will inform the locations, infrastructure and service offering of neighborhood technology hubs throughout Detroit.

Connect 313 aims to create a network of technology hubs by supporting existing safe, trusted spaces across the city to grow and scale their access to technology and digital resources. One example of this model is Brilliant Detroit, which provides programming and support year-round to families with children ages 0-8 in eight neighborhoods across Detroit.

Digital literacy ambassadors will be hired in each of Detroit’s seven council districts over the coming months. These ambassadors will hold ongoing community meetings, perform needed outreach, and work to connect residents to current and future technological resources available through Connect 313 and community partners.

“The Connect 313 Fund will allow Detroit to transition from a city burdened with longstanding digital inequity to becoming the national model for providing technology and opportunity to all residents,” said Joshua Edmonds, the Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit who oversees Connect 313. “The Rocket Mortgage Classic’s Changing the Course initiative will create a brighter future for every Detroiter by ensuring everyone has a chance to take advantage of the infinite opportunities technology provides.”

Administered by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Connect 313 Fund will raise additional funding and continuously solicit the feedback of over 100 stakeholders and digital practitioners across the city every month to identify the best, most impactful ways to steer funds and bridge the digital divide.

“Due to the generous support of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and the passion of Detroiters to take on systemic issues by addressing the source, I am confident the Connect 313 Fund will make technology more accessible to children, families and communities,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We know the community will answer the call to join us in Changing the Course, and that this unprecedented collaboration will redefine what can be achieved by public/private partnerships.”

2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic

During the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic, $1 million was raised to support Changing the Course through a special charity exhibition match hosted by two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who was joined by Jason Day, Harold Varner III and Wesley Bryan. This included a $50,000 donation by Delta Dental, and a $40,000 donation by Detroit-based DTE. The $1 million includes a $500,000 match by title sponsor Rocket Mortgage.

The AREA 313 Challenge, where donations from title sponsor Rocket Mortgage were triggered by players who made an eagle, ace or birdie (3-1-3) on holes 14, 15 and 16, raised an additional $385,000 thanks to the spectacular play throughout the tournament.

Additional donations toward the Rocket Giving Fund’s total nonprofit contribution of $2,716,770 were generated from the net proceeds of the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic, which was held without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions but developed numerous new and creative methods of revenue generation, all with the goal of maximizing charitable contributions.

After Nate Lashley cruised to a six-stroke victory and his first career PGA TOUR win at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic, Bryson DeChambeau muscled his way to 23-under-par to win the 2020 tournament. Ranked 10th in the world entering the event, DeChambeau earned his sixth career TOUR win at the age of 26, leading the field with an average driving distance of 350.6 yards.

DeChambeau subsequently won the U.S. Open, held September 17-20. His seventh career TOUR win was also his first major title. Matthew Wolff, who finished second at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, also finished second in the U.S. Open.

The 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic was one of the PGA TOUR’s “Return to Golf” events that was played without fans following a nearly three-month hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic.

The third-annual Rocket Mortgage Classic will be held June 28 – July 4, 2021, as it returns to the historic Detroit Golf Club.

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