ellohay! West Michigan

What we need to make this work

Posted in discovery stages, planning by forgr on March 13, 2008


Photo from flickr-user katielips, for use under creative commons license
In no particular order:

• We need to offer free laptops to our clients

• We need to offer support for our clients

• We need to offer many types of education

• We need to offer one-on-one mentoring

• We need to make sure our clients understand the power of their new tool, can help themselves, become independent of the program, and make a contribution back to the community in some way

• We need to provide several methods for our clients to contact us for support

• We need to have at least one physical presence in the city that is easily accessible

• We need to collaborate with our community and our internal team frequently

• We need to have dedicated staff for day-to-day tasks

• We need to have multi-lingual staff members

• We need to have active technology gleaners

• We need to be organized in everything we do

• We need to become an anchor in our community

• We need to be smart and fresh, honest and level

• We need an active and dedicated board of advisors

• We need people with patience, passion and empathy to help us bring this workshop into fruition

• We need to have volunteers to help organize the equipment, properly orient new clients, maintain relationships with community, offer technical support, teach classes, be mentors, evangelize, write for the blog, collect feedback, clean the workshop, be in charge of client data, write articles for monthly eNewsletters, explain the workshop and earn-a-laptop program to new-comers.

• We need to stay local and stimulate people in our community to stay active

• We need to have client events

• We need to have a solid board of directors

• We need to have a fearless leader

• We need to make sure our tools are accessible to individuals with special needs

• We need to have community partners

• We need to always stay positive and engaged

• We need to know our mission and work towards it in everything we do

• We need to solicit feedback from our community on a regular basis

• We need to be as open, honest and as transparent as possible

• We need to take care of our team members

• We need to learn from our clients

• We need to reach out to our neighbors, and engage them in the project

Grand Rapids (poverty, illiteracy)

Posted in discovery stages, education, links for community, potential problems by forgr on March 4, 2008

Grand Rapids makes national news, for our high illiteracy rates:

“Grand Rapids, a city of 184,000, one out of every five residents has difficulty reading or cannot read at all.”

“Grand Rapids’ adult illiteracy rate of 21 percent is just slightly above the state average of 18 percent…” More.

And yesterday, this headline from the Grand Rapids Press:

“One in 3 public school students lives in poverty”

“Today, at least one in three students — 51,500 children — at traditional public schools in Kent and Ottawa counties are poor. In Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville schools, four of every five live in poverty, according to federal statistics on students who get free or reduced-price school lunches.”

“Grand Rapids Public Schools, historically a high-poverty district, has gone from 66 percent to 81 percent poor students in the past seven years, forcing schools to become “full-service, one-stop social service agencies,” Superintendent Bernard Taylor said. “We’re not just dealing with education.”

“The state is in a recession, and the people who get hurt the most are the children who need the most. It’s a travesty,” said Susan Neuman, a University of Michigan professor and former assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education under President Bush.”

“Some funding comes through grants for at-risk students and the federal Title I program. Grand Rapids, for example, received millions in 1999 to limit most elementary classrooms to 19 students. Those grants expired in 2003.

But many elementary schools waste Title I dollars on classroom aides or computer labs, Neuman said.

‘Better to get a highly qualified teacher,’ she said. ‘That would make a difference. And do we really need that computer lab? If kids can’t read, they can’t use a computer effectively. Get rid of it and get more books.’

Grand Rapids has not ditched the computer labs, but it has obtained more books. The Student Advancement Foundation, its fund-raising arm, updated all 47 school libraries since 2004 with $1.6 million in donations.” More.

From AccessKent’s website:

“The per capita income for the County was $21,629. Of the population for whom poverty status is determined, 12.1% is below the poverty level. Out of the total people living in poverty, 38.4% are under the age of 18 and 4.80% are 65 or older. ” Read more employment statistics here.


My mom mentioned that she saw that story linked above on illiteracy on the news the other night, and brought up a good point, How can we include literacy programs into our program? We could get some serious backing (financial…) if we were to incorporate elements into this program as well.

If people can’t read, how can they use computers? And, no we can’t save the world with computers… but we can work to ‘bridge the gap’ by ‘raising the bar’… can’t we? If we at least provide resources to our clients for literacy programs, we’re helping there, right?

What else can we do? Should we focus on just technology, education, resources and support for functioning online? Is this the venue for universally boosting the under-served?

What about the environment? There’s also a lot of money being poured into our community to promote and support environmental causes too, what is our focus?