As students prepare to start the school day, logging into a device is now as common as having a desk full of freshly sharpened pencils.
But in Pensacola, many kids don’t have a device or broadband connection to get home and train.
Cox Communications is helping to level the playing field for kids ages 6-18 by partnering with Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast to launch the new $20,000 Cox Tech Innovation Lab which has been unveiled Wednesday at the Pensacola Club in Englewood.
Cox staff hope programs on gifted lab devices, ranging from desktops and laptops to 3D printers, will give children exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and literacy skills. they can take with them through the rest of their lives.
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Then, in turn, the hope is that children educate their family members who may not be as comfortable with using technology in daily life, such as updating a resume or scheduling an online bill payment.
“Technology is expensive. It’s like playing an expensive sport. Unfortunately, you have to have the money to be able to do that,” said Shervin Rassa, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club. “For kids to be on an equal footing right now, they need to know about this stuff. This is essential for their academic development, but also when they are adults and want to work.
Rassa added: “I am happy, through our partnership, we are able to expose our children to this every day.”
Not only will kids have access to programs that teach them the basics, like mouse skills, troubleshooting, and online safety, but the lab team will give them projects to work on that might spark professional interest later on. . Children choose their own topics of exploration, in subjects like animation, audio production, color theory and coding.
“Our mission is truly to impact the young lives of the children who need us most and inspire them to become productive, responsible, caring and responsible citizens,” Rassa said.
Staff members like Sam Roberts, the IT director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast, monitor the children’s activity and take stock of their interests. Children can also view projects created by their peers online and comment on them using emojis.
“It works like a safe social network for kids,” Roberts said.
David Deliman, vice president of market at Cox Communications, said the lab was a natural way to give back to the community and help create digital equity.
“The sooner we can instill these skills and resources in students, the better,” he said. “Boys and Girls Club is a really great partner because they work with these kids every day who don’t always have the advantages that other kids have. This helps them stay level and get a level playing field so they can be competitive.
Deliman noted that the company is also working to provide affordable internet access to help low-income families, even those without children, through programs such as Connect2Compete and the Affordable Connectivity Program.
“What we’re seeing, particularly with the Connect2Compete program, are families who have never been online at home – they’re getting connectivity for the child, for school, for homework or whatever – but then mom applies for a new job. She has to go online to do it. Dad might be updating his resume or wants to schedule a telehealth appointment. This connectivity supports the whole family.
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