Auburn Gresham Celebrates in Style
On the red carpet (from left): Ald. Latasha Thomas, Southwest Smart Communities Program Manager Norma Sanders, St. Sabina Employment Resource Center Executive Director Lisa Ramsey, Auburn Gresham Portal Manager Ernest Sanders, St. Sabina Employment Resource Center Financial Counselor Janice Murdock and GAGDC Executive Director Carlos Nelson.
It was very clear that something special was going on in Auburn Gresham on Friday, 11/11/11. A red carpet was rolled out in front of the headquarters of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and spotlights shone into the evening sky.
What might not have been as obvious was just how much the neighborhood had to celebrate. The Auburn Gresham Red Carpet Event II was the official unveiling of the community’s new FamilyNet Center, an information fair about the Smart Communities program, and a graduation ceremony for the neighborhood’s first computer training classes to earn a netbook computer, all rolled into one. The fact that it was Veteran’s Day and most of the graduates were veterans was just icing on cake.
“I am so proud of what is happening at the corner of 79th and Racine in the mighty 17th Ward. We need to be bragging about what’s going on in our community,” Alderman Latasha Thomas told the packed room, then got a enthusiastic cheer going: “The digital divide won’t be dividing much longer!”
Norma Sanders talks about all Smart Communities have to offer.
A Technological Mix
MC’ed by GAGDC Executive Director Carlos Nelson, the evening’s presentations led the crowd through the broad range of services offered by the Smart Communities program in Auburn Gresham. They heard about free computer training for adults, the Auburn Gresham portal, and what the program can offer small businesses interested in improving their bottom line through the Business Resource Network, run by Pia Shantee.
“The Smart Communities program is aiming to train 3,000 residents in its five communities,” Southwest Smart Communities Program Manager Norma Sanders said. “We’ve got a lot to offer.”
With food donated by local restaurants and a raffle to win a free netbook computer, the room had a festive, fun atmosphere, but it was the technology that stole the show.
Nelson introduced Glenda Franklin with a video of her mother, the late Rev. Glenola Lashley, getting the crowd riled up at the inaugural Red Carpet event last year. Portal Manager Ernest Sanders offered short training sessions on what the community site offers. Kids played video games and visited social network sites like Facebook in the “Smart Room.” Jimmy Prude, the Auburn Gresham tech organizer, ran a video feed of the event off a laptop, streaming to the Auburn Gresham Portal and the Chicago Mayor's Office Facebook page. (Watch the video here!)
Tech Organizer Jimmy Prude in the new FamilyNet Center.
FamilyNet Center Grand Opening
Next door to the GAGDC headquarters, the new Auburn Gresham FamilyNet Center officially opened. The site has 28 new computers--including three set up specifically for children--all hooked up to the Internet with a broadband connection. Brent Hill, the center’s manager, showed interested visitors what’s available—all offered for free.
The center has computer classes five days a week, educational software for students from kindergarten to high school, GED prep software, computers with Dragon Natural Speaking accessible program, typing skill software and more. Open Monday and Tuesday 9 – 5, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 9 – 8 and Saturday from 9 – 1, the center is truly a valuable community resource.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, for youth especially, to get introduced to technology," said State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, with Carlos Nelson and Jimmy Prude.
State Senator Jacqueline Collins pointed out that the facility can have a big impact on the neighborhood. “If you look at the downturn of the economy and where there is some growth, it’s in technology and finance. For so long our community residents have not had the advantage of resources, things that other communities might take for granted,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, for youth especially, to get introduced to technology and what it can accomplish and not be intimidated by it.”
For the more than a dozen participants in the Smart Communities tech training courses who had earned a new netbook, the best part of the evening was the graduation ceremony, where they received their new computer and learned how to best use it.
“It’s amazing what you can learn online,” said tech training graduate Gerald Harper.
“I used to mess around on my son’s computer before he went off to college, but in these classes, I learned how I could do things better and I learned a lot of shortcuts,” said Roosevelt Cooper, one of the graduates, who added that he plans on using his new netbook to email and find more newspapers online to add to his morning news fix. “I didn’t want to be a 70-year-old that the world was passing by.”
Rhea Steele, president of Blue Ocean Logic, which created the training curriculum, asked the graduates what they liked best about the courses. Community organizer Gerald Harper, said he appreciated learning how to look up information about TIF funds, the demographics of the ward and other important information for citizens.
“It’s amazing what you can learn online,” Harper said. “And it shows that to be competitive, we’re going to need to know how to use computers for things like this. The next generation will be left behind without it.”
At the main presentation, Prude spoke directly to the veterans he taught in the program, who had taken Everyday Digital, Civic 2.0 and Microsoft Office classes: "This is Veteran's Day, this is your day. As we kick off the netbook distribution, I hope you continue to use what you learned, both in your personal life and in your business endeavors."
The list of Auburn Gresham veterans who earned a netbook computer is: Babet Payton, Alfredo Lockheart, Vernon Yancey, Bruce Clark, Richard Neal, Toni Ellison, Georgenna Alexander, Issa Umi, Jerry Roberts, Lary Wilson and Kathrine Scott.
Posted in Smart Communities News