Digital Dreams: Empowering Washington County Teens For A Brighter Tomorrow

Access to technology has become a fundamental necessity for personal and professional growth. This is especially true for young people who are on the cusp of transitioning into higher education and adulthood. Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski, an unwavering advocate for the well-being and empowerment of the youth and the director of the Washington PA Health System Teen Outreach, recognizes the transformative power of Computer Reach’s Washington County Digital Navigator Project on the teens she passionately serves.

The project isn’t merely about teaching digital skills and distributing laptops; it’s about equipping young individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate and leverage technology effectively. According to Dr. Podgurski, the laptops the teens receive through program transcend being mere devices; they represent symbols of the potential and worth to the young souls who receive them. In her words, these laptops bridge the gap between aspirations and reality. To exemplify the impact of the project, Dr. Podgurski shared with us the story of a senior high school student who, thanks to the Washington County Digital Navigator Project , received a laptop that was once financially out of reach. The laptop became the student’s gateway to educational opportunities. This student’s story, Dr. Podgurski tells us, encapsulates the essence of the project, which not only promotes digital inclusion but also fosters a profound sense of possibility and self-worth among the youth.

Dr. Podgurski’s dedication to young people has deep roots in her own life experiences. Her journey began as a pediatric oncology RN at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City during the early 1970s. Here, she witnessed the fragility of life and the importance of living with purpose. This experience ignited her commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of the young. Her path eventually led her to focus on serving pregnant and parenting teens, acknowledging the critical need to support and empower them during vulnerable periods in their lives.

Over nearly five decades, Dr. Podgurski’s mission has yielded remarkable results. From her work as a childbirth educator to her founding of the Washington (PA) Health System Teen Outreach, her commitment to education and support has had a transformative effect on the community. Through programs like the Pregnant and Parenting Teens Program and the Adolescent Advisory Board, among others, Mary Jo and her team have touched the lives of countless young people, promoting education, empowerment, and self-worth.

Dr. Podgurski’s unwavering dedication extends beyond her professional pursuits; it also encompasses her extensive contributions to literature and education. Her numerous books address complex topics such as consent, gender, trauma, and more, reflecting her commitment to guiding young individuals through life’s intricacies. Her weekly column, “Ask Mary Jo,” serves as a platform for parents and teens to seek advice and guidance, embodying her belief in the value of open communication.

Even in the face of personal challenges, including her battle with cancer and surgeries, Dr. Podgurski’s commitment to empowering young people remains unshaken. As she eloquently states, she will continue to “bloom where [she is] planted” and make a positive impact for as long as she can.

Our partnership with Dr. Podgurski, a true champion of youth empowerment, is a source of immense gratitude. Her unwavering dedication, combined with our shared commitment to technology and education, showcases the transformative power of community-based collaboration. Through our joint efforts, we are not only bridging the digital divide but also instilling a profound sense of purpose and worth among the teens she serves, paving the way for a more inclusive and empowered generation of teens in Washington County PA.

by Will Perez, Digital Inclusion Director, Computer Reach

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