One of Sol Jimenez’s students wasn’t particularly passionate about technology, but she did love to watch online makeup tutorials. As a high schooler, she had started to review makeup products herself and identify her favorite brands.
When she was tasked to build her own website from a template in Jimenez’s class, she took the opportunity to put her ideas about makeup into an online format, making it easy to share with friends and peers.
“That same student graduated high school and she has come back this school year to help with the class, volunteer and support the next cohort,” said Jimenez, who teaches the Comcast Digital Connectors class, a cohort of 9th-12th graders who meet weekly to learn new software and technology.
“A lot of these students are passionate about something that is not necessarily tech. Once they’ve been introduced to platforms, students see it as a way to manifest their own passions.”
A program of Centro de la Familia de Utah (Centro), the Digital Connectors program gives middle and high school students hands-on experience in tech tools that will help them take their interests and passions to the next level. The 9-month class was made possible by a Comcast Foundation grant.
“The younger generation are the ones we hold hope in. We want to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their community,” Jimenez said. “Technology is a great way to empower them with the tools to make those decisions.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, we sat down with Centro’s Jimenez to hear about how the Center is seeing growth in its students in 2018 and beyond.
Comcast: Tell me about the program and your role. Current projects/goals/activities in the program?
Jimenez: This is my second year teaching the program with Centro, and I meet weekly with about 30 9-12th grade students. We go over basic software that will be useful to students in their daily lives now and as they prepare for college, including Microsoft Suite, email, Google Drive and others.
Most of my students are first-generation immigrants or have a refugee background. In many cases, no one at their homes is actively using technology, aside from maybe smartphones. Because of that, this hands-on time with technology might be their primary way of getting used to the tools.
What’s encouraging to me is how passionate the students are, and how proud they are to make the most of our tools. Programs with Centro have an excellent retention record — last year, we started with 30 students and graduated 28 at the end of the school year.
The students want to be involved in the content itself, and I feel like they enjoyed being in a space where they are comfortable being themselves and know they are valued as individuals.
Comcast: How do you see alignment between your goals and Comcast’s values?
Jimenez: Centro’s mission is to promote educational success in diverse and underserved communities and we want students to be leaders and be empowered to follow their passions. Technology is such a great way to do that because of the access students have to information, resources, and communication. That goal is definitely a shared one with Comcast.
I’ve been involved in community programs for a long time, and it’s difficult to find ways to stay motivated. Having partners like Comcast makes a world of difference. Comcast and Centro are able to offer each student that graduates from the program a fully loaded laptop for finishing, and access to apply for reduced-cost internet for their family through Internet Essentials if they meet the criteria.
Comcast: How have you noticed a change in your students because of the program?
Jimenez: At Centro’s program graduation last year, we had many families attend, and it was so cool to see the students proud of the progress they had made. Both the students and their families learned a lot in the process and were so appreciative. That milestone showed how much progress the students made in terms of self-confidence and confidence in using the technology.