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Sunnyvale School District, Columbia Neighborhood Center Partner to Close the Digital Divide

Sixteen families at Ellis Elementary School in Sunnyvale have been gifted Chrome laptops to take home after participating in a free 6-week digital literacy course. The course was made possible because of a $313,000 grant from the California Public Utilities Commission and a $100,000 grant from Google.org.

The Columbia Neighborhood Center (CNC) is the lead in the course’s implementation. CNC is a partnership between the Sunnyvale School District and the City of Sunnyvale, as well as nonprofit organizations, businesses, community members and others. The center coordinates these entities to provide a connected network of services and programs to support and empower youth and families so that the children of the community will develop the life skills necessary to be successful in school and beyond.

The group of 16 families is the first of 650 families anticipated to benefit from the program over the next two years. Other Sunnyvale School District schools that will benefit include Bishop Elementary, Columbia Middle, Lakewood Elementary, San Miguel Elementary and Vargas Elementary.

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The families are recruited by City and school site staff working together with priority to register families who are on the free and reduced lunch program, English language learners, and families who self-identify that they do not have a computer or laptop at home nor internet service. The goal of the program is to increase access to and understanding of technology.

The curriculum is delivered by Community Tech Network (CTN), a leading digital inclusion nonprofit organization. CTN provides bilingual instructors and Spanish-English curriculum to parents. Parents completing the training will gain proficiency in “internet basics” including Google’s ‘Grow with Google’ program, learning how to use email, online map services, navigate online banking, and more.

“These grant funds give the City and SSD an opportunity to collaborate and work towards closing the digital divide for families who are lacking the skills, equipment, and infrastructure to be digitally active, which impacts their ability to reach their full potential in education, employment, and be an engaged member of the community,” said Angela Chan, Youth and Family Resources Manager with the City of Sunnyvale.

Another key partner for this grant program is Comcast’s Internet Essentials, a national program that aims to help close the digital divide by offering inexpensive internet-ready devices and broadband service to qualifying low-income adults. A portion of the grant funds will be used to purchase $150 internet-ready devices through Comcast and facilitate household subscriptions to the $10 a month Comcast broadband service for participating parents with a goal of enrolling up to 300 families.

“The ‘Grow with Google’ program aims to ensure that our community members have access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in today’s digital economy. Google.org is proud to be supporting this effort by the Columbia Neighborhood Center and Sunnyvale School District to help create more opportunities for our fellow community members,” said Javier Gonzalez, Government Affairs & Public Policy Manager, Google.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to leverage the resources provided by this grant to provide learning opportunities for our families to improve their digital literacy skills,” said Sunnyvale School District Superintendent Benjamin Picard. “It’s exciting to be able to provide them with the tools necessary to access educational content and general information digitally. Improving the digital skills of parents will also support student learning in the home.”

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