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!

Community Garden, Wetland Planned for Former Delridge Substation

Volunteers remove blackberry plants from the former Duwamish Substation property during the 2016 Duwamish Alive event.

Seattle City Light, Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, and Seattle Parks and Recreation are transforming a former Delridge substation into community green space with a community garden, wetland, and educational programs for students and adults on growing food and environmental stewardship.

“Delridge is a dynamic and diverse neighborhood that feels the pressure of urbanization. Longfellow Creek floods and salmon die from polluted stormwater runoff. What’s more we’re in a food desert with demonstrated lack of access to fresh food,” said Willard Brown, director of housing and environmental programs for the development association. “The Delridge Wetlands and Stewardship Project is our chance to help the neighborhood and provide things that the community wants and needs.”

Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association began working with Seattle City Light in 2015 when the 20,000-square-foot parcel was deemed surplus property to create a place that would provide access to fresh food, preserve a wetland, help control seasonal flooding and improve water quality in Longfellow Creek. Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association secured grant funding to purchase the property at fair market value for $80,000 and for design and restoration of the wetland.  Seattle Parks and Recreation will own the property. Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association will manage the site.

City Light laid the groundwork for the future community greenspace by removing contaminated soils. The utility also will remove the upper portions of six hazardous, diseased cottonwood trees in the 4,000-square-foot wetlands as part of the condition of transfer to Seattle Parks and Recreation. The cottonwoods will be converted to snags for wildlife habitat.

Brown is leading the charge for the property’s transformation and is bringing together the organizations that will transform the site. Students from K-8 STEM School at Louisa Boren, located two blocks from the site, and The Nature Consortium are working in the wetlands, removing invasive weeds, planting trees and learning firsthand how to care for the earth. A partnership with City Fruit and Tilth Alliance will bring a community orchard and garden to the former substation site. The Pomegranate Center, Outdoor Classroom Design and Gaynor Inc. are onboard to develop the site plan with community input this year.

 

East African Community Services proves representation is key to education

Story by Damme Getachew

East African Community Services (EACS) is a lighthouse for hundreds of youth who simply want to succeed in education and life. It’s located in the New Holly Neighborhood Campus in Southeast Seattle, where more than 65 percent of residents are East African.

As a first-generation Somali-American, Executive Director Faisal Jama knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of the students he passionately serves. There is an opportunity gap that East African youth experience in traditional school systems, and even within their own communities, Jama says.

As children of immigrant parents, or as immigrants themselves, East African youth grow up with less understanding of how to successfully navigate the education system than their counterparts.

That’s why EACS exists — to provide “culturally responsive” K-12 education programs during after-school hours throughout the academic year and in the summer.

“We focus on being proactive, not reactive so that our kids are prepared,” Jama explains. Students start algebra by 8th grade instead of 9th and take math for four years instead of the three-year high school requirement.

They also hold frequent workshops where community members come in to talk about their careers, family, culture and identity, providing East African youth with tangible role models for success.

“In our community, there are a lot of people that are serving our kids, but it’s not us…” Jama emphasizes. “We make sure our professionals and our volunteers can relate to them.”

In other workshops, students engage in discussions on African and African-American literature. It’s important that one knows where you come from — it encourages self-love, Jama says.

Since its inception, EACS has transitioned alongside the East African immigrant community it serves — from aiding newly-arrived refugees in the ‘90’s with necessary social services, to offering full-blown educational training for the children of those same families a generation later.

As Jama puts it, EACS doesn’t intend to be-all and do-all for East African youth. Instead, the organization recognized that becoming an education-only institution was exactly what the kids needed.

In partnership with local colleges, student-teachers instruct their classes. EACS also regularly employs high school students as interns and brings in volunteers from the community to ensure strong support in the classrooms.

Since their full transformation in 2013 to an education organization, EACS has seen a 30 percent increase in student enrollment. “It’s all from word-of-mouth,” Jama explains. Parents are telling other parents.

EACS alum Ahlaam Ibraahim is an example of what continuous and culturally-relevant support can do. Ibraahim was recognized for her high academic achievements in a recent Seattle Times article, and has become well known for her community activism. She even launched her own initiative, “Educating the Horn,” in connection with EACS recently, to help high school students fill out college applications and apply to scholarships.

Beyond college, EACS is also laying the groundwork for more representation from the East African community in the tech industry.  With support from the City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund  EACS recently began its ICT (Information Computer Technology) Learning Center to offer robotics along with college and career readiness classes. Students gain programming skills, learn how to code and use JavaScript, and more.

“The key is bringing in people that can show them what it looks like,” Jama says. “It’s about career awareness.”

He says it’s not just STEM learning that’s beneficial, it’s the visual depiction that people of color can and do succeed that reaffirms the youth’s belief in themselves and their own ability to thrive.

 

The City of Seattle is now accepting applications for the 2017 Technology Matching Fund (TMF). In 2016 the city awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds. This funding assists 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.