Supporting EBECC UnidosUs and City of Boston Digital Equity Fund Give Grants

As schools opened across Eastie earlier this month, the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC) Executive Director Frank Ramirez is spreading the word of a new opportunity for families to increase their computer skills. 

Through two grants, one from UnidosUS and the City of Boston Digital Equity Funds, EBECC will be offering Digital Technology classes. 

The grant to EBECC will support two of the agency’s signature programs, The Aspiring Youth Development Center and The Adult Education Department. 

Ramirez said the grants will help EBECC’s mission to advance Hispanic families across the digital divide in Eastie. 

“We obtained two grants–a $40,000 grant from UnidosUS, and a $35,000 grant from the City of Boston Digital Equity Funds,” said Ramirez. “The Fund’s goals are providing Boston residents with technology equipment, access, and training. With UnidosUS, EBECC secures an alignment with the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation focus areas in Digital Inclusion, Digital Exploration, and Digital Skills in the Workforce.”

Ramirez said with these grants EBECC is offering a blended curriculum that integrates cutting-edge technology with traditional instruction. 

“Integrating technology with classroom instruction helps Latino Students in two ways,” he said. “One, it keeps them active in their learning, giving them the ability to hone their problem-solving skills firsthand. The other way technology improves the students ‘experience is by giving them technological skills that will help them to develop needed skills in a competitive market and locate better paid jobs.”

At EBECC’s Aspiring Youth, local students are exposed to Internet use such as information seeking, social network site use, media production, and participation in online “communities.” Aspiring Youth also promotes civic engagement and using digital tools that play an important role in youth empowerment efforts. 

“Aspiring places great priority on the coordination of opportunities for exploration, expression, and empowerment through digital media with risk prevention efforts; youth learn to manage or avoid risks inherent to life online,” said Ramirez. “Youth learn to change the focus from time with just a screen to the quality of activities with which they engage in digital spaces to improve skills and judgement. This approach provides media literacy education that focuses on both critical analysis and opportunities for social advancement.”

At the Adult Education program adults learn basic digital literacies and digital problem solving, basic digital literacy skills are the physical ability to use digital devices, create and use computer files, and choose appropriate digital applications for different purposes. 

“Digital problem solving, on the other hand, includes navigating a range of digital resources to locate, evaluate, create, and communicate information,” said Ramirez. “At the program students will learn to apply social media, software and Web-based email services.”

The grants will help secure internet accessibility by providing Wi-Fi, and internet for low-income households; help residents develop the ability to access devices by providing a 1-to-1 student STEM and HiSET education and summer educational programming; expand tech literacy by offering after-school time and tech literacy workshops opportunities and learn digital platforms; learn the main features of email and how it works; help students configure and use Outlook Express, or Gmail to send, receive, and print email messages; as well as Computer Lab Supervisor support. 

“EBECC wants to give students all the experiences available to them with an integrated technology curriculum,” said Ramirez. “For Adults who dropped out of school we offer HiSET in Spanish. Those students often come to adult education with a history of frustrating and negative educational experiences, with expectations of failure and fears that structured adult learning will mean more complications in their lives. We help people to pass the HiSET Exam. By going through the program, learners can develop the literacy, numeracy, problem solving, and technology skills that are actually used in everyday life. For many this kind of instruction is empowering rather than frustrating, engaging rather than boring, and more obviously useful, especially in terms of job outcomes.”

Ramirez added that the, “Coronavirus has affected the education system in dramatic ways. Schools, colleges, and universities were closed to control the spread of the coronavirus that brought difficulties for students, teachers, and parents. At EBECC embracing distance learning was a solution to continue our educational program going under the pandemic. However, because the lack of network infrastructures, computers, and internet access is challenging distance learning in underserved communities.” 

Ramirez said EBECC designed strategies to recover lost learning by launching distance learning practices and reaching students who are most at risk and, and now providing support to students as schools reopen.

“Access to computers and access to the internet is basic to successful distance teaching but is not guaranteed for all students in underserved communities without a proper support system on a person to person basis,” he said. “We are providing both. Staff and teachers needing to get trained with online teaching platforms, and hybrid methodologies.”

For more information visit www.ebecc,org. 

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