Internet Essentials

One Woman’s Effort to Conquer the Digital Divide

Marta Casas-Celaya easily recalls the day last February when she read a story in her local paper, The Palm Beach Post, about a retired educator who cashed in her savings to transform a bus into a mobile digital classroom.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials was in its second year, said Marta, the company’s government affairs director in Florida, and "we were looking for every partner under the sun to help us make this program come alive ­– and here is this woman with a bus." 

That woman was 76-year-old Estella Pyfrom. After teaching for 50 years in the Palm Beach County school district, Estella noticed that fewer children had access to computers, and that meant they were falling behind in our technology-driven world. Determined to continue serving children in her retirement, Estella used her life’s savings to buy a bus and outfit it with 17 computer stations, each loaded with educational software. 

Her goal was simple: to make a digital classroom accessible to those children who need it most. 

She named her program "Estella’s Brilliant Bus." With Marta enthusiastically behind her, Comcast became one of just two corporations to support Estella’s Brilliant Bus. "She’s very quiet, but draws on her inner strength and resourcefulness to make things happen," Marta said. "She’s a bit of a force of nature." 

Estella’s Brilliant Bus is also one of South Florida’s most active Internet Essentials partners. Determined to get more poor children and families online, Estella began distributing Internet Essentials brochures before she and Marta even met. She continues to make sure the children and adults she meets today know about the $9.95-a-month Internet plan, and the discounted computers and free Internet training available to them.

Estella Pyfrom (right) gives a tour of her Brilliant Bus to Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David L. Cohen (front) and Comcast Corporation Vice President of External and Government Affairs Bret Perkins (back).

According to The Palm Beach Post, the bus travels three to four days a week, visiting mostly low-income neighborhoods and providing 8,000 hours of instruction each year to about 500 children. 

Estella’s efforts have drawn considerable recognition. Most notably, last fall Estella’s Brilliant Bus was nominated as one of 10 finalists for CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year. In addition, last November she drove her Brilliant Bus from Florida to the nation's capital to participate in The Washington Post's summit on bridging the digital divide.

"It says a lot for us, and for Internet Essentials, that she has taken it upon herself to recognize the importance of the program and to promote it on her own," Marta said. "She delivers the message as a  trusted source in the community – and that is the best kind of endorsement we can get." 

Learn more about Estella’s Brilliant Bus on this NBC News segment by Brian Williams and about her nomination as CNN Hero of the Year.

Header Photo: © J.Gwen Berry/The Palm Beach Post/ZUMAPRESS.com

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