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New Crew of Techies Graduates in Pilsen

At the end of last year, Patricia Paulino heard about the new computer training classes available for parents of students at Pilsen’s Cooper Elementary Dual Language Academy. She wanted to help her two kids, age 6 and 7, learn how to use a computer, but first she needed to learn herself.

On a sunny May 4, Paulino was one of the proud graduates who received a Certificate of Digital Literacy at the school in the first graduation for Civic 2.0. One of several tech trainings available through the Smart Communities program, Civic 2.0 is a set of classes designed to teach residents how to use the computer, get online and get the most from the Internet.

Luz Elena Brambila proudly displays her Certificate of Digital Literacy.

Eric Young Smith

“I’m so excited,” Paulino said in Spanish after the ceremony. “I can help my kids with homework on the computer now, and I look for information, especially about Mexico, that I can’t find elsewhere. I’ve looked at Facebook and I’m impressed with it, so I want to learn how to use that next.”

Twenty adults – 15 mothers at Cooper and five local residents – received certificates and a gift flash drive holder at the event, which marked the conclusion of the weekly classes they had taken at the local nonprofit Casa Juan Diego. Another six graduates from Casa Juan Diego weren’t able to attend because of work – but two had a great excuse.

“Two of our students have gotten new jobs in the last few months because of the skills they learned in the computer classes about how to fill out forms online,” said Elizabeth Rosas-Landa, the Smart Communities tech organizer in Pilsen, who taught the Civic 2.0 classes.

“Both groups were totally committed to learning and very enthusiastic,” Rosas-Landa said. “The best thing is they lost the fear of the computer. Before the class, they never thought they could use the computer; now they know they can.”

Graduation Day

Rosas-Landa led off the ceremony by speaking to the graduates, who filled the two front rows. Representatives from LISC/Chicago, Cooper Elementary, Blue Ocean Logic, Casa Juan Diego and The Resurrection Project also gave their congratulations, a clear indication of the many partners that are working together to make the tech trainings possible.

Rhea Steele of Blue Ocean Logic and Elizabeth Rosas-Landa, Smart Communities tech organizer in Pilsen, congratulate the graduates.

Eric Young Smith

“We heard about the opportunity to have these classes at Cooper by working with Elizabeth in the education task force in Pilsen,” said Martha Monrroy, the principal at Cooper. “We’re always looking for ways to help our parents keep up with what their children are learning around computers and technology.”

Before a lunch of homemade Mexican delicacies catered by the moms themselves, participant Luz Elena Brambila explained through a translator that she has been able to help her kids with homework, and much more, thanks to the class.

“I’m emailing my relatives outside the country, keeping in touch with them with the computer now,” Brambila said. “I’m very proud I’ve learned how to use the computer like this.”

Building on Success

Rosas-Landa has big plans for continuing to work with her classes, which have become close-knit during the 10-week course. Now that they know the basics, the students want to learn Skype, Facebook and Excel. They’re planning on creating a group in Facebook to market the traditional handcrafts that some members make.

Thirteen of the 20 students who graduated from the first Civic 2.0 tech training at Casa Juan Diego hold their certificates. A couple of the others couldn't be there because they already had found employment.

Eric Young Smith

“We’re also going to get them involved with civic engagement in Pilsen, to do positive things for the community with their new tech knowledge,” Rosas-Landa said. “They’re very excited to be a part of that.”

The Civic 2.0 course is currently being taught in all five of the Smart Communities (Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Pilsen), including seven more classes in Pilsen at six different locations around the neighborhood. In fact, three of the mothers who graduated on May 4 are now helping Rosas-Landa teach a new set of mothers at Cooper—helping to expand the power of technology in this Chicago community.

Posted in Civic Tech, Education, Pilsen


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