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Freedom Rings Partnership Graduates First Class in Digital Literacy Initiative

September 16, 2011

Freedom Rings Grant Drexel University graduated more than 100 students of the Philadelphia Housing Authority from the Freedom Rings Partnership’s first class at the John F. Street Center. The Freedom Rings Partnership was created to bring Internet access, training and technology to residents in underserved communities in Philadelphia. The graduating students went through eight-hour trainings at the Community College of Philadelphia as part of a multiyear initiative led by the City of Philadelphia’s Division of Technology and the Urban Affairs Coalition, with major contributions from Drexel University.

“Over the next two-years, the project will provide 100,000 Philadelphians with hubs at more than 130 locations citywide, including 70 public computer centers to gain access to the Internet. Drexel wants to connect people and provide them with an opportunity to help us break the barrier of the digital divide,” said Joanne Ferroni, Project Lead at Drexel University.

The ceremony kicked off with a speech from Michael Kelly, Executive Director of PHA and it was followed by speakers from key organizations within the project. The speakers stressed the importance of bridging the digital divide during the ceremony.

“Looking 100 years from now… It’s going to be a foregone conclusion that everybody should have access to the internet. The UN just came out and said ‘the Internet will be a human right’,” said Arun Prabhakaran, UAC Manager of Strategic and Government Relations.

Other speakers included Bridget Daniel, Executive Vice President of WILCO Electronic Systems; Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer of Philadelphia; Brian Keech, Senior Vice President and Executive Director at Drexel University; Chuck Rumford , Director of Corporate Solutions at the Community College of Philadelphia and Calvin Smith Jr., a resident graduate.

After the graduation ceremony, 101 new Dell netbooks were given to the graduates by Drexel co-op students. Freedom Rings Partnership will distribute 5,000 computers to PHA residents throughout the two years. PHA also handed out 500 Freedom Rings Partnership backpacks to school children who attended the event. The event featured a barbecue with live music and entertainment in honor of the graduates and their families who were present. Approximately 1,000 people attended the event including friends, family and members of various organizations.

Written by: Hillary Sabetta & Natasha Pandé