Sunnyvale lies in the heart of Silicon Valley, a globally renowned technology hub. Yet there exists a major digital divide within the community, with many residents offline. Hoping to bridge this gap and provide the community with greater digital literacy and access, the City of Sunnyvale applied for a grant with the CPUC California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in 2018 to partner with Community Tech Network. As part of this initiative, CTN was to provide devices and digital literacy training, especially for the area’s Spanish-speaking population. According to statistics, foreign-born low-income Latino adults in the community are more likely to lack high-speed internet, or broadband, at home.
At many schools in Sunnyvale, the majority of students are from low-income families, in which the parents may not have the resources or abilities to use the internet. Thus, many such parents struggled to support their children at home with remote learning. Additionally, it is often a challenge for parents and school officials to communicate electronically.
CTN hired local bilingual instructors and teaching assistants from within the neighborhood. Carlos Sivira, for example, a CTN program manager, was first hired to work on this project. He says, “Being a local allowed me to relate more closely to the community. The most common thing I saw amongst the families was that the parents and grandparents had never had access to an internet-capable device and never had anyone to teach them about the internet. Yet, they were so excited to learn. Often, classes ran late because the learners would stay after to discuss class material. Many learners and I would often joke about places in Sunnyvale, like the best restaurants and parks.”
Recently, the predetermined grant period, which officially launched with the start of classes in fall 2019, has ended. In total, there were 437 graduating students. Carlos considers it a huge success. “It always warmed my heart when I would see someone who never made it past elementary or middle school get up in front of the class, walk right up to the trainer with a big smile, take their graduation certificate and then turn to face their classmates extremely happy. Ultimately, this is what CTN is all about. It’s not just about helping underserved communities. It’s about us being able to empower those less fortunate, to celebrate their efforts, success, and accomplishments. To let them know that they aren’t ‘left behind by the times.’ They can still persevere, still learn, and ultimately become more prepared for what life may throw their way.”