A class at Mattapan Tech uses their computers.
Internet Essentials

Bringing Boston’s Haitian Community Online

About three years ago, Steve Hackley, a Boston area senior vice president at Comcast, bought lunch for a sales and marketing representative to reward her outstanding job performance.

Unknowingly, he also sparked the company’s relationship with a local nonprofit committed to helping one of Boston’s most under-resourced neighborhoods.

The sales and marketing employee, Bukia Louis Chalvire, was active in the Haitian community and a board member of the Mattapan/Greater Boston Technology Learning Center. She told Steve she thought the school would benefit from Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which aims to bridge the digital divide by supporting comprehensive Internet adoption. 

Steve agreed and suggested she email Becca Fracassa, regional director for government and regulatory affairs.

"Becca got back to me immediately," Bukia recalls.

Says Becca, "We were looking for them, and they were looking for us."

Today, Mattapan Tech annually offers free and low-cost training and job placement to about 1,200 adults of all ages from 14 ethnic backgrounds – about 40 percent with Caribbean heritage. As an Internet Essentials partner, Mattapan Tech has so far provided about 50 digital literacy training sessions for about 750 students. In addition, Comcast helped air public service announcements about Mattapan classes and the availability of Internet Essentials to the community.

Bukia’s commitment to Mattapan Tech is personal. At 21, she immigrated to the United States from Haiti with her parents. When the uncle who had sponsored her family died suddenly, she had to grow up fast – learn the language, get a job, and get used to the cold winters.

"There were so many challenges," she says now. "And there was no opportunity like Mattapan Tech available to me… Serving on the board is one way I can pay it forward."

Last year, Bukia found another outlet for doing the same. She left Comcast to serve in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ office of refugees and immigrants.

But the partnership between Comcast and Mattapan Tech remains intact, and the impact is real.

Mattapan Tech students work in a lab.

Gail Johnson, for example, was a 57-year-old grandmother when she lost her job last year, but she was nowhere near ready to retire. In fact, what the longtime resident of Boston’s tough Dorchester neighborhood wanted was a new career challenge – provided someone was interested in hiring her.

A chance encounter with a flyer led Gail to Mattapan Tech, where she enrolled in a 16-week course on computer repair and information technology. "I immediately felt very comfortable in the learning environment," she says. "You have to work hard, but you go at your own pace. It was incredibly supportive."

Gail not only learned new skills at Mattapan Tech, she also learned that Comcast was hiring, and eventually landed a job at Comcast herself. She now provides tech support in Plymouth, Mass. and anticipates that the skills gained from her computer repair and information technology class will help her to advance her career.

Says Gail: "I had never considered this kind of work until I saw the flyer and thought, ‘Why not?’"