Poet. Activist. Community Leader. These are the identities Samantha Akwei manifests in her life and brings to the work she will do at Community Technology Network over the next year.
The process to host an NTEN Digital Inclusion Fellow begins with organizations applying — describing the work the fellow will do and the difference this work will make in bridging the digital divide. Currently, CTN’s major work in San Francisco is with senior and community centers with installed computer labs under the City and County of San Francisco’s SF Connected program. We are proud of our accomplishments in this program: supporting a corps of 45 to 60 volunteers delivering 600+ hours of tutoring assistance each month in 20 different neighborhood centers.
The compelling challenge we still face is informing and educating the most marginalized and vulnerable who do not visit such centers and often do not perceive a need to learn to use a computer. In demographic terms, Latinos have the lowest level of technology adoption. Reaching this population became the focus of our proposal and our selection to host a Digital Inclusion Fellow from July 2016 through June 2017.
Enter Samantha Akwei. A 2011 graduate of Spellman College, Samantha has already accumulated an impressive history of work within social benefit organizations. Themes that permeate her work are the environment (Green for All in Oakland) and assisting individuals in developing skills and gaining employment (The Stride Center and Boston Workers Alliance). She has been a community organizer, developing strategic relationships and advocating in person, through virtual means, and through the range of social media tools. She has also guided individuals through the process of discerning a meaningful career and mapping a path to achieve it. She provided training, coaching, and interview practice to help clients succeed in gaining employment. Plus she has three years of college Spanish to connect this background to the Latino community we want to reach. Si podemos!
In the month leading up to her official start, Samantha has already been contributing and participating within the CTN team. She is pursuing a masters degree in public administration through San Francisco State and is collecting information to use CTN for case studies and assignments that will inform changes and initiatives in our future. In late June, she participated in our first staff retreat for strategic planning, helping us draft a clear learning roadmap that will operate as a definition for achieving basic digital literacy. This work will guide our ability to assess learner needs and progress to enable us to systematically teach and measure the difference we make. It’s an audacious goal we know she will help us achieve.