The Knight Foundation, Miami, Florida based non-profit foundation has announced a USD 1Million grant for a project, named the Civic Tech Experience, which comprises a series of programs for the West Charlotte community aimed at helping families to develop better digital skills, as well as get access to technology. Other functions of the Civic Tech Experience program involve connections to economic resources and chances for community engagement.
This program is the work of Project L.I.F.T., a public-private partnership that has worked primarily in West Charlotte more than the past seven years to develop the schools there, most prominently helping the graduation rate at one high school move from nearly 50 percent to nearly 90. There are three foundational programs that structure the Civic Tech Experience. The first is the Digital Inclusion Institute, a digital literacy program for parents of students in West Charlotte schools. The Digital Inclusion Institute is essentially a six-week computer basics course designed to empower the parents of students in the digital sphere. After they finish the course, they will receive a used laptop that has been refurbished by students at a local high school making USD18 an hour for the work. The laptops come with a one-year unlimited data plan. The idea is to educate parents and their children how to use computers and then give households technology to use.
The second main element of the Civic Tech Experience is a pop-up villages program, where organizers from Project L.I.F.T. host festival-like events with music and food that welcome families to come to engage with local educators, city staff, law enforcement officers and other groups that can offer resources. And, the third component to the work is called Charlotte Trajectory that described as a central hub for services that includes social work students from nearby Johnson and Wales University to assure that the families of students in West Charlotte schools have access to support services they may need, Project L.I.F.T. Technology Facilitator Lindsey Sipe said.
An overarching goal is a multi-generational approach to digital literacy, building an environment where parents will learn basic skills while kids can grow up with doing fun activities related to digital skills and, perhaps most important, STEM fields. Director of the Knight Foundation’s work in Charlotte, Charles Thomas noted that the group is eager to continue supporting the work being done by Project L.I.F.T. He said it outlines an evolution of the community engagement strategy Project L.I.F.T. has had over the last few years to really ensure that parents and families have access to technology, access to the Internet, and access to resources and information that are available.