Tech Starters Celebrates Inaugural Graduation

Beth PhillipsDigital Inclusion

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Austin Free-Net and Austin Pathways graduated its first class of Tech Starters on March 2 at the Housing Authority of the City of Austin’s Manchaca Village.

Each of the residents who completed the digital literacy class received a certificate of participation and a refurbished computer, complete with installed software, a mouse, keyboard and monitor.

However graduates said they took away much more than devices as a result of participating in the pilot program.

“My favorite thing I learned in class was social media because it opened up a whole new world of possibilities,” said Tech Starter and HACA resident Sandra Arnold. “Relearning the computer was important to me because I want to be able to utilize these skills in the workplace as well as in my personal life.”

The purpose of the six-week course is to help HACA residents gain computer knowledge to empower their lives and the people around them. Although everyone began at different levels, the class worked together to reach varying personal goals, which ranged from learning to communicate via email, to checking school grades online, to utilizing the Web to find new job opportunities.

“My favorite thing I learned was Craigslist. I was never able to get on it,” said Tech Starter and HACA resident Armando Baladez. “It was important for me to learn it because I’m starting a handyman business.”

Tech Starters is part of Unlocking the Connection, an Austin Pathways initiative to bring affordable Internet access, computers and training to HACA families. More classes are expected to begin at additional public housing properties this month.