Wilmington’s Southbridge Students Get Computer and Internet Access

WILMINGTON, DE – Every school-aged child in Southbridge has access to a computer and to the Internet now that the yearlong effort to bridge the digital divide has been completed. Delaware’s congressional delegation joined the community today to help launch the Family Technology Center at the Neighborhood House in South Wilmington. One of Delaware’s most economically depressed areas, Southbridge has a school dropout rate of 60%. Of the 41 students entering the freshman class only 14 will remain as sophomores and only 7 will enter the 12th grade, according to statistics gathered by BoardRoom Presentations. A nonprofit community center that has been serving the residents of Wilmington for the last seventy-five years, The Neighborhood House teamed with partners like BoardRoom Presentations, Microsoft and Del Tech to bridge the digital divide. With grassroots support from both private and community partners and leaders, the areas’ children now have needed tools to learn. The new state-of-the-art Family Technology Center has thirty-three computers donated by corporate sponsors and refurbished by inmates at Gander Hill Prison. Ten Southbridge area adult students have already completed software and Internet training and are committed to helping others in the neighborhood across the digital divide. Senators Biden and Carper and Congressman Castle worked together to secure the $191,000 federal grant that gave The Neighborhood House the bulk of the money needed to establish the Family Technology Center. “By improving the educational opportunities offered to inner city students and their families we can improve their overall academic performance, give them a better chance at earning good grades and developing needed social, communication and job skills,” Carper said. “With Delaware’s new academic standards it is apparent that without assistance, the gap between those that have access to computers and those who do not, will continue to widen.” “The simple fact is this: if you do not have access to a computer, you can’t develop the skills to use it and as a result, you are sorely disadvantaged in today’s world,” said Senator Biden. “Access to computers and training means access to unlimited information and unlimited opportunities – things that are sometimes scarce in areas like Southbridge. This is about leveling the playing field and giving everyone a fair chance to succeed.” “Computer and Internet literacy are key aspects of lifting up a community and empowering its citizens with unlimited resources to pursue their dreams and goals, which may include higher education or career advancement,” said Congressman Castle. “The Family Technology Center will help close the digital divide in this diverse community and bring generations together to give everyone a chance to succeed.” When the Family Technology Center opens its doors, Christina School District students will be able to take their school bus directly to Neighborhood House and receive hours of computer based instruction that directly relates to their class work. After school each day, two Christina School District Title 1 teachers will provide instruction in computer and Internet literacy skills. Del-Tech specially trained ten neighborhood residents to teach basic computer skills to others in the community. These instructors will teach others, guaranteeing the program’s sustainability. The longer-term goal of this effort is to provide in-home Internet access and training to each Southbridge household where a school-aged child resides. Carper, Biden and Castle have long been leaders in the effort to bridge the digital divide. Under Senator Carper’s leadership as governor, Delaware became the first state in the nation to wire every public school classroom with fiber optic cable. Delaware leads the nation in providing students with access to computers in classrooms. Last year, Senator Biden joined forces with America Online CEO Steve Case in launching a nationwide effort called “Kids 2000,” a public-private partnership that authorized $120 million over six years to provide personnel, training and infrastructure upgrades at the Boys & Girls Clubs computer centers throughout the nation. Congressman Castle chairs the House Education Reform Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over education technology. Throughout his career he has worked to ensure that kids have access to computers and that teachers incorporate education technology into their lessons.