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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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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Autumn Evans

Autumn Evans is the Detroit Native Helping to Lead Connect 313

Autumn Evans is the Detroit Native Helping to Lead Connect 313

As Detroit’s Deputy Director of Digital Inclusion and Connect 313’s Operations Director, Autumn Evans is on the front lines of ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide in Detroit. And she’s making an impact and helping to change the course of history in the city where she was born and raised.

“Being a native Detroiter brings value to the work that we do,” Autumn says. “To see Detroit go from being the least connected city in the country to being the lighthouse for digital inclusion work, I think that only happens when you are pushing to be innovative and think outside of the box to solve problems experienced by family and friends.”

In 2020, Autumn was helping Focus:HOPE connect homebound and low-income seniors to devices and services and that’s when she got a firsthand look at the impact of the digital divide. Not long after, she began working for the city and helping to lead the data-driven digital inclusion effort that is Connect 313.

In her role, she works tirelessly to ensure processes are developed and followed, strategic partnerships are formed, knowledge and information is shared, and that Connect 313 reaches its goals and continues to evolve.

“I’m very proud of our ability to execute at a high level and bring to life scalable solutions and operations that can help bridge the digital divide,” Autumn says. “I believe the framework can be used to tackle other big issues such as food insecurity or the way the criminal justice system interacts with the community.”

Connect 313’s structure is a proven success. This summer, 17 new tech hubs were funded, bringing the total to 22 citywide. A number of sites received free devices thanks to a partnership with DELL Technologies. Autumn also works to ensure Detroiters have a voice in policy – assisting with the creation of a community organizing model that gives residents a greater say in the digital decisions being made.

“Having that resident-first lens as a city has made Connect 313 high value to the work that we’re doing,” Autumn says. “These big issues are not something a government entity can solve by itself; it takes all of us working together and setting common goals and turning our values into action to see change and make all of our efforts worthwhile.”

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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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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 Care 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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Naimah Wade Helps Cultivate ‘The Genius Within’

Naimah Wade Helps Cultivate ‘The Genius Within’

Naimah Wade enjoys helping people cultivate the genius within themselves, which is why she joined the Connect 313 team.

“What the most impactful people in my world did for me was reduce barriers or eliminate them all together,” Naimah says. “I am a part of this work to try to eliminate that vast hole between those that are engaging digitally and those who are not.”

Naimah is Connect 313’s Director of Research and Learning as well as the management lead for the Special Projects and Shared Resources Committee, which plans projects and initiatives such as neighborhood tech hubs, community ambassadors, and Connect 313 storytelling.

“Connect 313 is yet another example of innovative problem solving in the form of an organizational coalition that is making an incredible impact to move Detroiters from a position of being digitally divided to one of being digitally empowered,” she says.

Supporting digital empowerment is also Naimah’s focus at Wayne State University where she’s the Manager of Digital Inclusion. Naimah says many people don’t use technology because they fear the unknown – and that’s a barrier she’s working to break.

“It’s not that they don’t want to be involved, it’s that they’re afraid of not knowing,” she says. “Give yourself permission to make mistakes… jump in even though you’re nervous about not knowing. You may be wonderfully surprised.”

Wade is currently working on Connect 313’s inaugural research symposium, which will bring academic professionals in the digital research and teaching space to Detroit for the city’s annual Digital Inclusion Week in October.

Naimah is excited for the future of Detroit and its residents and, when asked what she loves most about the city, Naimah quotes Jeanette Pierce from the Detroit Experience Factory: “Detroit is big enough to matter in the world, but small enough that you matter in it.”

“This is what I love about Detroit,” she says. “You can reach out to practically anyone and begin to impart change in the way that you want to see your city evolve and I think that’s really powerful and magical, and I think it’s rare.”

To reach Naimah email naimah.wade@wayne.edu.

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Gearing Up for Digital Inclusion Week with Nina Yu

Gearing Up for Digital Inclusion Week with Nina Yu

Nina Yu knew she needed to be involved with Connect 313 after taking part in the inaugural Digital Inclusion Week last fall and seeing the direct impact it had on Detroiters.

 

“One of the reasons I love working with Connect 313 is because we’re working directly with the community,” Nina said. “I want people to know that we greatly value their opinions and suggestions and to be active with us in terms of submitting feedback.”

Nina serves as Connect 313’s vice chair for the Special Projects and Shared Resources Committee. She and her fellow committee members bring stakeholders together and create and coordinate crucial community resources to help bridge the digital divide.

“I’m most excited about the work we’re doing with neighborhood technology hubs,” she said. “Our committee is responsible for reviewing community tech hub applications. These spaces have a profound impact on the accessibility of technology for our community as well as the digital literacy of the residents.”

Seventeen new neighborhood technology hubs were recently announced – including one in each of Detroit’s seven council districts. That brings the total number to 22. The following organizations, and their locations, were selected. They are expected to open by the end of the year.

  • Holy Temple of the Living God in Jesus – 8590 Esper St., Detroit, MI, 48204
  • Green Door Initiative – 7650 Second Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
  • MACC Development – 7900 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48214
  • Franklin Wright Settlements – 7375 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
  • Detroit Association of Black Organizations – 12048 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48204
  • Matrix Human Services – 1400 Woodbridge, Detroit, MI 48207
  • Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance – 19321 W. Chicago, Detroit, MI 48228
  • Friends of Parkside – 5000 Conner St., Detroit, MI 48213
  • Destined for Greatness Community Resource Center – 5555 Conner St., Detroit, MI 48213
  • Replay Cafe Detroit – 6545 St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 48202
  • CODE313 – 1420 Washington Blvd., 5th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226
  • Joseph Walker-Williams Community Center – 8431 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit, MI
  • The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit – 111 E. Kirby St., Detroit, MI 48202
  • Journi House of Tech – 8425 W McNichols Rd. Detroit, MI 48221
  • Osborn Neighborhood Alliance – 13560 E. McNichols St., Detroit, MI 48205
  • Eastside Community Network – 4401 Conner St., Detroit, MI 48215
  • Bridging Communities – 6900 McGraw St., Detroit, MI 48210

Each tech hubs will receive grant support ensuring they are furnished with access to computers, high speed internet, digital literacy programming capabilities and other essential technology tools. They will also provide critical in-person technology support and guidance.

In addition to her work with Connect 313, Nina serves as the Placement Director at NPower Michigan, a workforce development solution for companies seeking IT talent. The organization offers a free 16-week intensive technical training program for young adults from underrepresented communities as well as military veterans and their spouses. 

“In my role, I work directly with our trainees in their career readiness and development as well as with our partner companies that are looking to hire our NPower talent,” Nina said.

This year, Nina’s connection with Connect 313 is coming full circle as she helps to plan Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week, which will take place the first full week of October.

“I’m extremely excited about this year’s Digital Inclusion Week,” Nina said. “The event will consist of free digital empowerment activities for Detroit residents and business owners…you will definitely want to be a part of it! Involving all committees in this effort will help bring a variety of perspectives and resources.”

You can connect with Nina by emailing nina.yu@npower.org.

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