Seattle to hold Digital Literacy Network meet-ups

Do you want to work together to push forward shared interests in cultivating a more digital literate Seattle for K-12 students, young adults, adults, and senior citizens? Come join us Nov 13, 15, or 17 to share your work and ideas for collaborating to improve digital skills for the community you work with. The Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) and the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) are convening two in-person and one online session to explore a digital literacy network.

The idea for a digital literacy network or something similar came up in the community input as we were developing Seattle’s Digital Equity Initiative.  Similar groups have formed elsewhere, including Kansas City’s Coalition for Digital Inclusion Alliance and Philadelphia’s Digital Literacy Alliance.  These coalitions are helping market educational opportunities, train trainers, recruit and place volunteers, develop funding, identify skills standards and assessment tools, exchange curriculum, and/or increase awareness of the need for digital literacy. These efforts can complement other broadband, education, STEM, immigrant/refugee, or social service coalitions. They involve a range of community based organizations, companies, public agencies, schools, foundations, and community members.

Seattle IT and CTAB are hosting three meet-ups the week of November 13-17 to learn who wants to be involved and what the needs and priorities would be. One meet-up will be in the north end, one in the south/west area, and one will be virtual (phone/internet).

Please join us for one of these dates:

  • Monday, November 13, 9-10:30 a.m. at Literacy Source, 3200 NE 125th St, Seattle, WA
  • Wednesday, November 15, 10-11:30 a.m. at Delridge Community Center, 4501 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA
  • Friday, November 17, 12-1 p.m. virtual meeting online

If you’re interested, please RSVP to david.keyes@seattle.gov with your name, organization, and which meet-up you would like to participate in.  Please let us know if you need special accommodations or an interpreter. Feel free to invite others!

Voices of Tomorrow: Breaking down cultural barriers in child care

Voices of Tomorrow: Breaking down cultural barriers in child care

Story by Joy Okot-Okidi

Voices of tomorrow has been serving East African childcare providers and their families for more than five years. The co-founders Zamzam Mohamed and Iftin Hagimohamed saw how a lack of cultural understanding in early learning was impacting their community. So they set out to better equip East African child care providers, children and families while breaking down cultural barriers.

Their mission reads, “helping today’s children for a better tomorrow.”

CEO Zamzam Mohamed says the hopes the organization will, “further bridge the cultural gap between Westerners and immigrants as far as childcare and raising children goes.”

The organization fully came together in 2012. Since then co-founders have worked to put together programs and conferences along with members of the community.

One such event in December was The Somali Women’s gala. The purpose of the event was to celebrate and empower Somali women in the local community. It also serves to appreciate and acknowledge the many women who work in the childcare field.

They also hold an annual childcare conference is held to support providers. This conference not only holds mandated trainings and improves professional development, but connects members of the community working towards a similar goal.

After receiving a grant from the City’s Technology Matching Fund, Voices of Tomorrow pushed to open a computer lab in the Hope Academic Enrichment Center, close to Voices of Tomorrow’s headquarters in South Seattle. The lab supports local childcare providers in gaining computer skills such as opening emails, responding to licensures and writing documentations.

Voices of tomorrow co-founder saw a common challenge among the 400 plus childcare providers in King County, and 166 in the Seattle area. They launched the computer lab project was started to improve tech literacy.

“People come in at different levels, so we created a ‘tailored needs service,’ where we will pair two people up. One who is very knowledgeable in the subject and someone who wants to learn about the certain subject. We use this system because our community of immigrants, especially where I am from, really thrives well with peer to peer support and activities,” said Mohamed.

Community members also come in to the lab to help providers with the various computer skills. In addition, about 80 children were given access to the computer lab for homework help, and to work with a teacher on computer skills like typing. Children in grades six and up were using the computer lab.

The lab features a total of eighteen HP computers, including a printer, copier, scanner and projector. The projector was used during a nine week literacy training, in three hour sessions taking place every Wednesday and Saturday beginning last December. After a successful launch, the computer lab has moved to the Voices of Tomorrow office, where community members can still drop in and assist each other with various skills.

Mohamed says East Africans have valuable cultural assets that can be applied to childrearing

“For example, our families use a lot of storytelling,” she explains “and parents may think that they have to relearn skills to help their children with what is being taught in school, But they already have the skills. They just have to connect the dots using the methods that they have.”

Voices of Tomorrow started with the idea of breaking that cultural barrier. So Mohamed says that when childcare providers can call Voices of Tomorrow and there is no barrier in understanding, it brings her immense joy.

She says that the most rewarding part of her job is when childcare providers have the “A-ha moment” where they try out a method in their own childcare program and it successfully helps a child do better.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.

Lazarus Day Center responds to homelessness crisis with devotion to service


Story by Hillary Sanders.

The Lazarus computer lab gives visitors access to software like Microsoft Word and provides an internet connection for clients to engage in housing and job searching, communicating on social media, or just watching a YouTube video to unwind. The computer lab is currently accommodating between 50 and 60 people per week.

As the homelessness crisis peaked in 2016, the Lazarus Day Center in Pioneer Square found itself serving more homeless and marginally-housed people than ever this last year.

“The Laz” as it’s lovingly called, provides a range of services for homeless and marginally housed people aged 50 and over. Those include laundry, showers, meals, counselling, housing case management, activities and classes, and as of this year, a 6-station computer lab.

As plans were being made to clear The Jungle, volunteers from the Laz went to the Seattle City Council and fought hard to get the funds that allowed the center to open earlier and provide more meals and add an additional housing case manager.

The Laz secured housing for 49 people in 2016 and expect that number to go up in 2017. With the help of the Technology Matching Fund, The Lazarus has also been establishing a technology center for its clients.

Prior to the construction of their 6-station computer lab, the Laz did not have computers or internet access for its clients. They now have staff building out classes specifically to help people develop computer skills.

According to Jennifer Newman, the Program Director at St. Martin de Porres Shelter and Lazarus Day Center, these classes cover everything from resume building, learning Word, looking for housing, job searching, and connecting with family on social media.

“We want to expose people to a variety of activities and classes to enrich their lives but also, to build relationships founded on trust and respect. This enables us to engage clients in meaningful housing case management,” Newman says.

Between the additional meals, the new computer lab, classes, and other events, the Lazarus is now strained when it comes to physical space — but Newman says that they’re devoted to continuing to help more and more people regardless.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.

Lake City organization is a quick study in teaching digital literacy to adults

Story by Damme Getachew

For hundreds of adults in the Seattle area looking to expand their education, Literacy Source is a crucial first step.

At their Learning Center in Lake City, students experience a broad range of classes intended to build their language and literacy skills.

As Literacy Source Executive Director Lynn Livesley explains, the organization’s strength is not only in their small class sizes — with a maximum of 15 students per class — but also in the way they keep their content accessible.

“Adults walk with their feet,” she says, “they don’t have to be here, they choose to be…the classes have to be relevant and respectful of their time.”

Throughout a typical week, Literacy Source offers adult basic education (ABE), English as a Second Language (ESL), GED prep, math, citizenship test prep, and their new Online learning courses (made possible through a City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund grant) at convenient times.

About 120 active volunteers facilitate in the classroom or work one-on-one with students every day. Volunteer tutor Wendy Mullen meets with her student for 90 minutes, twice per week.

Classes and tutoring revolve around each student’s individual goals. Each student is supported by an assigned instructional advisor, who takes care to understand why learners are there and where they want to go. They check-in with their students across six-week terms. No two classes are alike because they are tailored to a cohort’s needs and ambitions.

Tess Griswold, an ABE instructional advisor says this is exactly why they are successful — a culturally responsive curriculum and a classroom built around mutually agreed upon rules is the norm.

“It’s not prescribed, it’s not scripted, it’s something that really comes from them and where they are at,” she says. “We intentionally meet them at their level.”

Yumiko, a student in a level four ESL class, moved to Seattle from California where she worked as a dental assistant at a Japanese-speaking facility. She’s at Literacy Source because she wants to improve her English-speaking skills so that she can eventually work as a dental assistant anywhere. But for now, learning how to use a computer is helping her do better at her current job.

“Because of our size and the fact we are not within a big institutional structure, we can be very nimble, flexible, and intentional about creating opportunities for the people we are working with,” Livesley explains.

In 21st century America, this includes increasing digital literacy for low-income adults.

Literacy Source has created a center-wide Digital Literacy curriculum which promotes technology use in some form in every single class, both in their Learning Center and in off-site programming. Focus areas include basic internet functionality, email, Google Docs, Google Maps, and Canvas (a learning management system used in higher education).

Specific objectives are outlined across their Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer terms with increasing complexity as time goes on.

“The majority of our students want to know how to use a computer,” says Instructional Director Cat Howell, “For some, it is the first time they’ve even touched one, so we start from the beginning.”

Workforce Coordinator and Instructional Advisor Janet Arbogast says that a lot of assumptions are often made when it comes to instructing adults about digital literacy.

“Jobs that have previously been non-technological are starting to transition,” she explains. As tasks become more automated, workers are expected to catch on to new programs and databases quickly.

But as Arbogast points out, it can be very difficult if digital training is not done in the right way. That’s why Literacy Source steps in to provide in-depth pre-training before new systems go live, and partners with other organizations to host classes on-site.  Recently, they conducted a 10-week long training at NW Hospital.

“Showing workers something once and assuming they will get it just doesn’t work,” Arbogast continues. “As NW Hospital workers got the hang of the new program, they were able to phase out of the class.”

The unique strategies used by Literacy Source are meant to ensure that digital literacy continues long after students exit the classroom, in ways that both improve job performance and will fundamentally change a student’s life.

“Change happens with education,” Livesley affirms. “Education is the starting point for any individual.”

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.

Seattle’s Millionair Club Charity is a one-stop transition from the streets to a job

Story by Esmy Jimenez

“Martin G. Johanson wanted everyone to feel like a millionaire whether they had a nickel in their pocket or nothing at all,” Executive Director Jim Miller tells me.

In his quest to make this vision a reality, Seattle’s Millionair Club Charity (MCC) was formed in 1921. A local businessman, Johanson watched as his city reeled from the economic devastation of WWI leaving many unemployed. While some charities were providing hot meals, Johanson believed the key to breaking the cycle and providing people with the agency to lead a dignified life was the privilege of a well earned paycheck.

“That’s why we’re a job-first organization,” Miller adds. While the organization couples job opportunities with housing support, the Millionair Club is known for having provided over 800 workers this year to over 1000 businesses who hired people who’ve experienced homelessness or are currently experiencing homelessness. For many that’s the first time someone’s offered them a tangible solution.

Currently the organization focuses on providing people with Food Handler’s Cards and MAST (WA State’s Mandatory Alcohol Server Training) licensing. Many people often lack the $10-$15 cost of a certification and that alone can be the barrier that keeps them from accessing a job. What’s more is that even if the money was available and prioritized, an online course means access to a computer is a necessity.

Herein lies the beauty of The Millionair Club. It’s a thoughtfully assessed system that foresees solutions to barriers that may be holding their clients back. It’s that kind of foresight that prompted the organization to develop a small, eight-station computer lab devoted to job support. But they didn’t stop there.

As the need grew and the positive effects rippled out, the social entreprise knew they had to keep up with the demand from their clients. With support from the City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund through a $21,800 grant, The Millionair Club developed their small computer lab into a Workforce Development site equipped with 32 workstations. Now folks can come in to the same place where they can shower, do laundry, store their belongings, eat a hot meal, pass their food handler’s certification test, and even get work clothes for employment the very same day.

“We love it when people say ‘I came in for lunch, I came out with a job!’” says Christine Rylko, Director of Communications at The Millionair Club. What’s more is that the organization also provides transportation to and from work and a completely free vision clinic for folks who need glasses (much needed for job readiness!) Coupled with housing opportunities, free showers and laundry, the place is a one-stop shop for people to get back on their feet.

This year alone this intricate system has helped 154 people transition to full time permanent jobs.

With over 4,500 people without a home identified during this year’s One Night Count and 6,000 more in King County shelters, that kind of program is revolutionary and indeed much-needed.

“I want to pass that on to anyone out there who needs help to work. The MCC is where it’s at for good clothing and work.  In fact, I haven’t heard of any organization out there that’s like them.  Everyone should come to the MCC for help because it’s #1,” says Sam, a client who experienced both the pains of homelessness and the joy of finding his way back to a secure home with the help of The Millionair Club.

With stories like this, the organization’s name is no misnomer. They are championing the way for Seattle’s homeless population to feel like millionaires themselves.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.