2016-2018 ConnectHome Western Pennsylvania Project Summary
Starting back in the Spring of 2016, Computer Reach began connecting with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Inclusive Innovation Team. Conversations quickly led to ideas about how Computer Reach could play a part in providing computers, training and internet access to Pittsburgh residents.
In cooperation with ConnectHome USA, a nationwide computer literacy project, Computer Reach was able to provide Western Pennsylvania residents with computers and camps to teach computer basics.
The project was designed to digitally connect people who are socially isolated and financially burdened by providing access to technology. This meant integrating technology into the homes of those who are currently left out and left behind. The wealth of information provided by technology, and more specifically the Internet, can completely change the lives of those that have not had broadband high speed (over 20 Mbps) access to the world wide web. But what if the person has never used a computer and has no previous computer or Internet experience? This is a fair question because there are plenty of people that have never had the opportunity to operate a computer. Mobile phones yes … but not a home computer.
New computer users are generally afraid of technology. Our goal is to bring everyone together. So, being a nonprofit organization that not only provides technology in the form of computers, but also provides Digital Literacy Training for those that do not know how to use a computer, we managed to fit into this Initiative.
Computer Reach became the equipment and training provider for ConnectHome USA and began to collaborate with three Housing Authority sites: the Westmoreland County Housing Authority (WCHA), Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP). The launch of the first camp was in January 2018, funded by grants from The Fisher Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, The PNC Charitable Trust and The RP Simmons Family Foundation. The goal was to enroll at least 384 Housing Authority residents to complete the Digital Literacy camps. Upon completing the course, residents would be awarded a free desktop computer bundle and have the basic computer knowledge.
The three Housing Authorities recruited their HUD-assisted and Section 8 residents to be students for the computer camps which would be conducted in local libraries (note that the Westmoreland County libraries were extraordinary). In order to earn the computer, residents had to attend all four two-hour long sessions, for a total of 8 hours of camp.
The first camp was held in the winter of 2018 at Monessen Library in Westmoreland County. It was a successful camp – 12 out of 16 residents completed the course and earned a computer. Throughout the 2018 calendar year, we launched an additional 36 camps at 15 different locations such as libraries, community centers, and workforce training sites. We exceeded our goal of enrolling 384 and had 398 total students enrolled in the camps. Of the 398 students that were enrolled, 270 completed camps and earned a computer bundle. This amounts to roughly a 70% completion rate.
We also tracked and measured how well the residents scored on the NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessments that were administered on the 4th day of every camp. These assessments were used to gauge how much information was retained by the residents. We are proud to say that over 80% of our students were able to pass at least one of the four modules, which is a testament to the effectiveness of our Computer Reach teachers.
In all, the ConnectHome USA Project in Western Pennsylvania was a thrilling success for Computer Reach. We were able to serve residents across Allegheny County and Westmoreland County with computers, and provide them with the knowledge to effectively use the computer. This sense of power and accomplishment that the students felt can in no way be measured or calculated numerically. The impact that we were able to have on those that we served is truly priceless for each and every one of them. We helped open their eyes to a world that is full of opportunities in our rapidly changing digital society. Computer Reach, in partnership with WCHA, ACHA, and HACP, made a difference.