Community Impact

Digital Connectors: Building Futures Through Digital Literacy

Some 50 young people aged 14 to 21 have shuffled in and out of Ali Algalham’s classroom at the Arab Community Center for Economy and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, MI, to participate in Comcast’s Digital Connectors program. They’ve come for advanced digital literacy training and, perhaps more importantly, to get a head start on building a better future. If anyone can teach them how to do that, it’s Algalham.

"The most rewarding thing about being a Digital Connectors instructor is seeing students improve in so many ways," he said. That includes "seeing weaknesses become strengths, seeing them motivated to step out of their comfort zone and watch them create and have a voice. And the most important thing is networking, making new relationships in and out of the program that will continue helping them build their futures."

Algalham has experienced firsthand the advantages of forging relationships through Digital Connectors. About a year after completing the program at ACCESS himself, he received a call from the center’s  youth director asking him to return  – as a Digital Connectors instructor.

"At first, I hesitated," he admits. "Eventually, I decided to take the challenge.  Since I had a great background [with] the program and I was on the other side as a student, I learned faster how to run and facilitate the class."

Launched in 2009, Digital Connectors is a year-long course in which students receive digital literacy training three times per week at a local school, community center or other facility, thanks to a partnership between Comcast and dozens of local nonprofit organizations. The students then put into practice the technical expertise they’ve gained by volunteering at various community-based organizations, senior centers, churches, and even their own homes. They learn how to network computer labs, connect wireless access points, design computer training modules and create social media projects.

Algalham’s Digital Connectors success helped springboard him into pursuing an Information Technology Management major at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The son of Yemeni immigrants who, despite limited education and language and cultural barriers, took the chance of coming to America for the opportunities it would afford them and their family, Algalham began experiencing the rewards of community involvement and volunteering in his teen years, thanks to Digital Connectors.

"I am the older brother in the family, so it was hard for me to balance between volunteering and my home responsibilities." he said. "But eventually my parents understood the importance of volunteering and saw the great outcome of it."

Now, Algalham’s students can see the great outcome, too. Three times each week, to a classroom of young minds eager for their turn, he serves as a living example of what it means to build a future, and give something back in the process