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Free Computers for County Foster Children Helps Bridge the Digital Divide
Digital Literacy Camp Provides Technology Training and Job Skills
By: Rodney E. Medina
A group of Whitfield County foster children will be taking part in a Digital Literacy Camp, July 29 through August 1 at the North West Georgia Trade & Convention Center in Dalton that will teach them state-of-the-
Each of the 23 Whitfield County participants are members of foster families and range in age from 14 to 20. The children chosen for the program are at-risk students who excel in school, but can’t afford to buy a computer themselves. Many are still in high school, while others are working on college degrees. Participants are coming from Rome, Ringgold, Chatsworth, as well as Fort Payn.
The Digital Literacy Camps for at-risk youth in foster care are aimed at preparing participants for adult independence. “We term ourselves as a solution for the digital divide,” says Instructional Access’ Vice President Steve Martin. “We feel we’re truly putting the tools of the future in the hands of people who are going to need it the most.”
Instructional Access’ goal is to work with public social services agencies nationwide to teach at-risk children in the foster care system technology literacy skills, job skills and a variety of life skills preparation instruction.
The classes teach computer basics such as the Windows operating system. They also teach internet safety and computer security and privacy. The core of the teaching includes productivity programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The main goal of the Instructional Access curriculum is to teach foster children a productive digital lifestyle that they may have not been exposed to. One of the culminating activities is the viewing of the Microsoft PowerPoint presentations developed by the participants demonstrating what they learned over the weekend.
The all-inclusive 2.5 day Instructional Access Digital Literacy Camp typically costs $1,995.00 per participant, with other camp options available at a lower cost. A 20 participant minimum is preferred. The full-service program includes complimentary accommodations and meals for two agency-designated chaperones per group of 20 participants. The program is paid for using state and federal funds secured by Whitfield County’s Social Services Department.
510,000 children lived in out-of-home care in the United States as of 2006 when the most recent date for national estimates are available.
Since the inception of the Independent Living Program, funded by the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, social services managers have asserted the importance of computer training and technology access for youth in care. The result of a study conducted by Casey Family Programs of Bridgeport, CT found that student in foster care without access to computer training or a computer are more likely to lack employment and higher education opportunities than their peers with computer experience, training, and sufficient access. The study, conducted in 2000 by Ben Kerman in the Research and Evaluation Department at Casey Family services, also found that young adults entering the workforce in the information Age will be at a disadvantage if they are not technologically literate.
“The whole program was born out of a recognition that the digital divide was growing, and that if everyone wasn’t provided with access to technology, the gap between the haves and have-nots would increase,” says DeNae Reagins, one of the three founders of Instructional Access Inc.
The Digital Literacy Camp began as a program put together in 1998 by Instructional Access, a computer training and testing facility based in Riverside, California. The initial mission was to provide educators with instructional strategies for integrating computers into the classroom. Initially, it offered a 40-hour program to teach Microsoft Office to educators. In 1999 the company started working with agencies responsible for youth development.
About Instructional Access Inc.
Instructional Access, Inc. is based in Riverside, California, with satellite offices throughout the United States. Instructional Access, Inc. has operates as a California Corporation under this name beginning in 1998. Instructional Access, Inc. began as a training company for schoolteachers.
Instructional Access Inc. programs provide youth with technology skills and laptop computers with the goal of improving school performance, career exploration and professional development.
With the assistance of youth development workers, industry professionals and youth leaders, Instructional Access has expanded and now offers service in more than 26 states and Puerto Rico. Over the last 12 years Instructional Access’ services have grown to include: youth conferences, institutional training for incarcerated youth, staff professional development training and computer technology literacy training in English and Spanish. Instructional Access’ weekend computer camp program has served over 17,000 youth in the last 12 years in 26 states.
The Instructional Access team is comprised of former health and human service youth program managers, evaluators, employment specialists and public school educators. The team includes bilingual (Spanish) teachers in Puerto Rico who also work for the Departamento de Educación de Puerto Rico.
Toll Free: 888.377.8982
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