Over the past several years, Comcast has partnered with NAYA to educate the Native American community about two important programs, Internet Essentials and Digital Connectors. Our partnership with NAYA, a Portland-based organization that advocates for the recognition of the importance of Native American community interests, has been instrumental to our company’s goal of addressing broadband access and digital literacy, issues that disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color.
Twenty-five percent of American households do not own a computer, a number that is even larger in the Native American community. Nothing in the history of technology has had the potential to level the playing field of access in America ― access to education, healthcare and vocational opportunities ― more than the Internet.
The Internet Essentials program, launched in 2011, provides affordable broadband service to low-income families whose children qualify for the National School Lunch Program. The program offers monthly broadband service for $9.95 and Internet-ready computers for under $150, along with free digital literacy training in print, online and in person. In Portland alone, NAYA has been instrumental in helping to connect more than 2,500 low-income families to the Internet, many for the first time.
Comcast’s Digital Connectors program, which began in 2009, is another signature program targeting broadband literacy and adoption. Employees involved with the program work with Digital Connectors participants, primarily ages 14 to 21, to develop their skills and comfort level using computer applications and the Internet. Participants are then charged with taking what they learned during the program out into their communities and spreading digital literacy to their families and neighbors.
Working together with the NAYA Early College Academy, we are helping to train the next generation of Native Americans for successful careers in the science, technology, engineering and production industries. Students learn how to take apart and reassemble computers, write scripts and storyboards, conduct interviews and edit video. We saw tremendous talent among the NAYA Digital Connectors students. The spring 2011 class boasted a 90 percent graduation rate, the second-highest rate of all Comcast Digital Connectors programs nationwide last year. One of the students, Herman Bautista, is now enrolled in Portland Community College pursuing his interest in computers.
Bautista’s success and the success of the NAYA Digital Connectors program wouldn’t be possible without the support of NAYA and its commitment to providing the Native American community with the opportunity to learn and grow through access to the Internet. It was with our collective passion for this cause in mind that Comcast proudly sponsored NAYA’s 9th annual gala and celebration in November of 2012.