An Ambassador For Digital Literacy
An Ambassador For Digital Literacy
CAMPAIGN: INSIDE CI
One year ago, Comcast employee Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski walked into the offices of a Philadelphia organization that provides physical and speech therapy for young children. She was there because two of her triplets needed help.
Eva, Eli and Jonah, now 3 ½, were born 7 weeks early, and her two sons were having difficulty with speech.
"We sit down, and my husband, Alex, and I are talking about our boys and going through an individualized education plan with the specialist," recalled Trinity, 32. "As we kept talking, I asked her whether they serve a lot of low-income families, and she said ‘yes.’ Then I asked if she had heard of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. She hadn’t."
In turn, the specialist suggested Trinity meet with the agency’s parent resources manager, Delis Serrano-Estrada.
Not only had Delis heard of the program, but she was a participant. In addition, Delis told her, "It’s one of the resources I make sure to talk about with people who come into the office."
Launched in 2011, Internet Essentials provides low-income families with discounted home Internet service. With more than 3 million people now connected, it is the largest private sector Internet adoption program in the country – and Trinity is a member of the Comcast team that helps manage Internet Essentials nationwide.
Trinity was so intrigued by Delis that she and a Comcast colleague invited her to lunch to learn more about her story – and then asked whether she would be interested in publicly sharing how Internet Essentials helped set her life in a better direction.
What Delis told them is she was a 28-year-old single mother when she moved with her son, then 2, to the United States from Puerto Rico in 2008. She sought employment and also to enroll in online college courses, but it was challenging as her only access to a computer required her to find a sitter or take her son with her when she walked to a library or took a bus to a community center.
Then, in 2011, on her way to drop off her son at his preschool, she spotted an advertisement for the newly-launched Internet Essentials program on a Philadelphia city bus. Although money was tight, Delis believed having the Internet at home was necessary if she was going to improve her life, and her son’s. "There’s no excuse to not get connected," as Delis puts it.
Delis signed up for Internet Essentials, and her life took a turn for the better. She used the Internet to study, to look for a job, and to find a new place to live. While as a single mom finding the time to attend college classes in person is challenging, Delis said thanks to Internet Essentials she plans to take online courses to earn a master’s degree in education.
In addition, she said, "I’m teaching my son to do research, and we video chat with his grandparents in Puerto Rico so he stays connected to his culture."
Internet Essentials has made such a difference in her life that Delis makes it a point to also connect parents she meets at her job with the program, along with resources like books, clothing, and diapers.
"She’s gotten quite a few other people signed up already," Trinity said. "She’s a true ambassador."
Said Delis: "I am so excited to be a part of spreading the word about Internet Essentials because I’m sharing my own real story to empower more families and people in my community."
WE SHOULD ALL BE CONNECTED
In July, Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) ConnectHome initiative took a historic step to close the digital divide. Now, all HUD-assisted residents living in Comcast’s service area are eligible to apply for Internet Essentials. Including homes covered by Comcast’s public housing expansion pilot announced in March, an estimated total of up to 2 million HUD-assisted homes, including public housing, housing choice voucher, and multifamily programs, will now have access to low-cost Internet service.
"This is the single largest expansion of the Internet Essentials program in its history," said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast. "We’re thrilled to be working with HUD to help connect even more families, including seniors, veterans, and adults without children, to the transformative power of having Internet service at home."
Internet Essentials provides low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. Initially available to families whose children qualified for the National School Lunch Program, Internet Essentials has expanded its eligibility criteria nine times over its five-year history.
This article originally appeared in Inside CI. Read the full issue here.