Students gain access to digital learning tools close to home
Tre’maya Moore had been looking forward to this day for weeks. “I am so excited to use the computers to help with my homework. I can’t wait to start playing math games – oh, and reading games too!”
The enthusiastic second grader from Alta Vista Elementary then grabbed a mouse and showed grownups how to play Fashion Store Fractions.
Moore and fellow students from the We R 4 Kids after-school program joined family members and local officials to dedicate a new Digital Learning Lab at the Sarasota Housing Authority on February 12. The lab’s twenty laptops, ten desktops, a mobile charging cart, printers, headphones and work tables were made possible by a grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation to the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
Housing Authority executive director William “Bill” Russell said, “We are pleased to partner with the Education Foundation to provide learning opportunities for our residents. We know how important technology is in the classroom and the workplace. Now, our residents and youth will have access to computers, internet, and computer training right here in their own backyard.”
A $100,000 award from the Selby Foundation will cover capital and equipment costs for ten new Education Foundation Digital Learning Labs in Sarasota County this year. Every lab is designed to give students access to computers, the internet and digital literacy training in a safe, supportive setting. Each lab is customized with partner agencies to enhance their existing learning activities, promote success in school, and prepare students for college and careers.
Susan Scott, executive director of the Education Foundation, announced the Selby grant at the dedication. “The Selby Foundation is a long-time partner with the Education Foundation, helping us identify and meet the needs of Sarasota County’s students and teachers since 1988,” she said. ““Even with the success of our Texcellence computer take-home program, we found that an alarming number of students still had limited or no access to digital technology outside the classroom. Having this Selby Foundation grant means we can to reach so many more young people who need these tools and are tremendously motivated to learn with them.”
Carolyn Johnson, a Selby Foundation trustee, participated in the ribbon-cutting. “The Selby Foundation Board was delighted to fund this important project to help students and their families bridge the digital divide,” she said. “In today’s world, every child needs access to computers and digital literacy – and caring adults to guide them.”
The first Education Foundation Digital Learning Lab was established in April 2013 to enrich Laurel Civic Association’s after-school, weekend, and summer programs. A total of thirty labs are now underway or planned for other youth-serving sites such as YMCA’s Triad program, Sarasota County Libraries, Boys and Girls Clubs, Alta Vista’s A+ Adventure Club, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
The We R 4 Kids after-school program operates at the Sarasota Housing Authority Monday-Thursday from 4:00-5:30 pm. We R 4 Kids works to encourage youth empowerment and implement programs that foster leadership for all youth. At the Housing Authority, they aim to improve at-risk students’ literacy skills by engaging local police officers, college students and teachers to tutor students in math and reading. The new Digital Learning Lab will supplement current educational activities by offering the digital learning and literacy training all children need for school and future careers.