Bringing Devices and Connectivity to Families at Southside Homes

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On June 21, ConnectHomeUSA met with parents and kids in Charlotte, North Carolina to distribute laptops and hotspots. As part of our ConnectUSA program we worked with local and national partners to connect families living in Southside Homes. At the event, we connected thirty young adults, ranging in age from 11 to 15, to the internet for free. Sprint’s hotspots, along with laptops provided by E2D and funded by GitHub, will provide two years of free Internet service, connecting families until 2020. E2D, a non-profit that works to eliminate the digital divide by refurbishing and redistributing laptops and other devices, provided the laptops.

The Community Manager at Southside Homes, Dottie Stowe, helped coordinate the event and will continue working with families in Charlotte so that they can make the most of their devices and the opportunities of internet connection. Specifically, she will help residents learn how to use the Internet and laptops to do their homework, create resumes, and apply to jobs. According to Christine Edwards, the Community Relations Coordinator of Mecklenberg County, their goal for the first year of this program is to bring CHA residents from 30% connected to 35% connected. Events like this recent distribution will be invaluable in achieving that goal.

J’Tanya Adams, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager at EveryoneOn and Charlotte native, organized the event and coordinated the delivery of the devices. “I was in awe watching the youth of today from my first grade school receiving empowering words about the role of technology from my first manager, Garry McFadden, a world renowned homicide detective and Mecklenberg County’s first African American Sheriff,” J’Tanya said.

 Sheriff-elect McFadden helps a student get his computer up and running.

Sheriff-elect McFadden helps a student get his computer up and running.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff-Elect Garry McFadden joined us as the guest speaker, discussing with kids the importance of being responsible digital citizens. He shared his valuable insight from thirty-six years in law enforcement and his desire for kids in the area to harness the power of the Internet to foster community among each other and between local law enforcement. “We take our iPhones and our iPads for granted,” McFadden said. “The only time we cherish our iPhones is when we drop it.” He shared the passion he felt talking to young people getting online. “To see a child’s eyes for the first time looking at the Internet. Seeing the world outside their community online. We take it for granted.” McFadden has patrolled and worked with the Southside homes community for decades, learning the needs of the people there. “If someone can grant those needs to these future leaders, there is somebody in that group that we are going to want to attach ourselves to later because they will be successful, starting with connecting to that computer.”

Through events like these, North Carolina and the Charlotte area are making strides toward getting more individuals online, yet the digital divide remains stark. Statewide, 2.3 million individuals have yet to be connected to the internet, or about twenty percent of households, according to the most recent census data available. In Mecklenberg County specifically, there about about 150,000 unconnected individuals, or about 12.6% of households. With continued determination at ConnectHomeUSA and among our partners, we hope to close this divide and empower everyone in Charlotte, North Carolina, and throughout the United States.

This post was written by Benjamin Hewitt, Intern, EveryoneOn