By Ivan Phifer
By ST. PAUL (December 9, 2010) – The University of Minnesota’s Broadband Access Project, in partnership with its St Paul Public Computer Centers, held a grand opening celebration for its Saint Paul based computer labs. The four computer centers located at Lifetrack Resources, YWCA–St. Paul, Hmong American Partnership and Asian Community Technology Center, together hosted an event with lab tours and information about the Broadband Access Project.
“BAP” is a $3.6M initiative of “UROC”, or Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center, and in partnership with Business and Community Economic Development and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. The purpose of BAP is to help metro-area residents to gain access to high-speed Internet services in order to better connect with jobs, health care, and educational opportunities.
BAP aims to improve high-speed Internet access, awareness and use in four federally designated poverty zones in North and South Minneapolis, Glendale Townhomes and Southeast Minneapolis, and the Frogtown-Summit neighborhoods of St. Paul.
The project established two new public computer centers and upgraded nine others with 11 nonprofit and community-based partners to provide Internet access to under-served African, African American, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American populations.
The grand opening featured speakers from the Office for BCED, and the Office for Information Technology as well as city and state officials, including District 65A State Representative–elect Rena Moran, St. Paul Ward 1 City Council member Melvin Carter, District 3 County Commissioner Janice Rettman, District 6 Commissioner Jim McDonough and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
All event participants were vocal in supporting the BAP’s work to narrow the digital divide.
“If you do not have access to high speed broadband, you will be hard pressed to find jobs, housing, and health care,” said Mayor Coleman. “You have to access the Internet to do that nowadays.”
The program was developed from studies that equate knowledge of how to use technology as essential for accessing resources and participating in modern day society. The event featured a bus tour and offered participants an opportunity to visit the Saint Paul based labs.
Hmong American Partnership, 1075 Arcade St., included a tour led by Damalgi Danielle, the Eastside HAP computer lab supervisor.
“The community needs this desperately,” she said. “We serve 95 percent of low-income, poverty-level community members.
“Having technology access is the only way to share the knowledge with small businesses, students, adults and elders to help change the face of the community.”
HAP was selected as part of the BAP partnership in part for its history of working with new immigrants and refugees. They currently serve both adults and teens in their BAP lab.
The YWCA-St. Paul uses its BAP computer lab to work primarily with children and teenagers. The BAP program contributes computers, staff, and curricula through YWCA’s Youth Achievement Program and Impact program.
Through the YAP after-school program, Cheryl Vanacora, BAP curriculum director, works with pre-teens.
“Every Wednesday evening the girls pick a topic and use broadband technology to increase their skills and knowledge,” she said.
BAP has lead a college preparatory training for the YWCA Impact program. These programs helps narrow the digital divide by establishing the importance of computer utilization and technology through searching for scholarships and college applications online.
The Asian Community Technology Center was established by Nghi Huynh, who is also the President of the MMMC. He was there to greet visitors with egg rolls and information about the role of ACTC and Asian American Press in the Broadband Access Project.
“Today is a special day in St Paul for the computer training program,” he said. “ACTC is a project for the organization called Asian Media Institute, providing a free program devoting skills and talents to train in minority media, to tailor the program to train youth.
“The second involved book and documentary film from different ethnic communities in the U.S.,” he added. “The third project is global education to introduce and connect with colleges and universities.”
Mr. Huynh then demonstrated how broadband access is essential for the workplace.
“Media training is our main concern through the use of development,” he said. “Through the vendor outage program, we use computer to display how to put together a business plan, mission so they can learn how to apply skills from the vendor program.”
The tour culminated with a visit to Lifetrack Resources where a late afternoon ceremony featured speeches by Lifetrack President Trixie Golberg, along with University of Minnesota staff and Major Coleman.
Lifetrack Resources has been among one of the busiest centers and specializes in providing services to adults with disabilities, new immigrants and refugees, and low-income families.
After the event, community members had a chance to communicate with public officials.
State Rep-elect Rena Moran said BAP is imperative for communities such as the Rondo neighborhood.
“As the representative for District 65A, I see how Lifetrack Resources provides opportunities for the low income community to have access to computers, to have a chance to utilize the resources to find jobs and connect to the resources that are available,” she said.
“I support it 100 percent because it is very needed in larger numbers,” she added. “I would like to see it expand in larger numbers, to find other ways to bring in broadband support so a larger population can have access to technology.”
Moran said that with HAP, YWCA, Lifetrack and ACTC all take an active role in bringing the digital world into the communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate.
“With today’s technology, everything is so digital that we need to have access, and this is a great way to make that happen,” said Moran.
Asian Community Technology Center
417 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103
Monday – Friday, 10:30 AM – 7:00 PM
Hmong American Partnership (East)
1075 Arcade Street, St. Paul, MN 55106
Monday – 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Wednesday – 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Thursday – 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Friday – 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM
709 University Avenue West, St. Paul, MN 55104
Monday-Thursday: 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Friday: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
375 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104
651- 222-3741 (Available by appointment only)