El Buen Samaritano (EBS), located in Austin, Texas, is a powerhouse organization. Serving mainly the Latinx community, EBS offers its clients access to a food pantry, assistance in applying for government benefits, youth and adult education programs, and even health resources.
Prior to the pandemic, EBS offered in-person, bilingual (Spanish/English) digital literacy classes in its computer lab. The classes were meant for people who had never touched a computer before and covered the basics of technology — including how to use a mouse and keyboard. The organization had to temporarily pause this course due the outbreak of COVID-19. Determined to continue serving the community, EBS pivoted at this time and began offering virtual digital literacy training for adults who already had some computer skills. These intermediate classes taught more advanced skills, such as using Google Suite.
Now that EBS has finally been able to open its doors again, the organization has continued with both its in-person and virtual instruction. However, it decided that it wanted to take its digital equity offerings to the next level. Isabel Bernal, the education program manager at EBS, says: “I realized that our previous curriculum from pre-COVID was really outdated and it wasn’t what we needed for the clients that we were serving. I had first learned about CTN by attending the Digital Empowerment Community of Austin (DECA) phone calls,* and I reached out.”
EBS was interested in participating in CTN’s DigitalLIFT program, which provides organizations with training, support, and curriculum so that they can launch their own digital literacy programs or improve their already existing ones. EBS realized that they didn’t have the budget to participate last year, but they made it a priority to set aside funds for DigitalLIFT in 2023. So far, six members of the EBS team have completed our online DigitalLIFT training, and the organization is thrilled with the curriculum that we developed for them.
“The training was really great,” says Isabel. “It provided strategies for teaching and working with adult learners. Overall, it provided us with more guidance. And the new curriculum from CTN is so much easier to follow than our old one. But the fact that CTN was able to put everything together to specifically meet our needs was the best part. I really appreciated my meetings with the CTN team. They made sure that they understood what we needed, what programs we offered, and what topics we were planning to teach with the curriculum. They customized everything for us.”
CTN’s Skye Downing believes that this is precisely what makes DigitalLIFT unique. “We have the ability to provide customized solutions to fit any budget and any need. We want to give organizations the resources that they need to tackle the digital divide in their communities,” she says.
Isabel is excited to continue offering digital literacy at EBS. She says: “A lot of our learners want to start their own businesses. Learning how to make budgets and create spreadsheets online have been some of the biggest tools for people. Learners also say how digital literacy has made life easier for them. They don’t have to ask their sons and daughters for help with technology anymore. They can do things on their own now. … There are just so many resources online. Thanks to the internet, you don’t even need to leave your house to find the information that you need. We have everything at the tips of our fingers online, and we depend on technology now so much. We use Google Maps. We use email. If a family has kids in school, they need the internet to register them and to communicate with the school. People also need the internet to apply for government benefits. Technology is just so powerful, and we use it to do almost everything. Yet, there are a lot of people in the community that don’t know how to turn a computer on. This can be a major barrier for them in getting the services that they need.”
*CTN’s co-founder and executive director, Kami Griffiths, facilitates these biweekly calls.