Josh's Story: Helping Urban Students Across the Digital Divide
Josh Kammerer served as a TechMission Corps Member at Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, California
TechMission Corps was the AmeriCorps-funded precursor to City Vision Internships
When I first got a phone call from Florence, my current TechMission/AmeriCorps site director, she told me about the state of technological usage at Harambee and her vision for improving it. I was to be a computer teacher, as well as an after-school tutor; and I was to research and develop a new technology/computer curriculum for the children. When I accepted the position, little did I know that the very next day all of the laptops in the children’s computer lab at Harambee were going to be stolen. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles a few days later, I learned that what I had thought I would be doing was far from what I would actually be doing. Instead of teaching computer classes and improving the current systems, I would have to do other work at the site until funds could be raised to replace the computers. Once that happened, I would then have to redesign and rebuild the entire system.
After I got to my site, I began to realize that the network itself was also in poor condition. Working with Rudy, the tech-savvy executive director, I helped redesign and rebuild the entire network here at Harambee. Furthermore, the content filtration software that had previously been used failed shortly before my arrival. Even if I did rebuild the computer labs, I would have to somehow figure out how to fix the server and find good filtration software that the kids and teenagers could not bypass. (They had figured out how to bypass the previous software.) The task that was given to me was a pretty big task, but I was glad to be able to do it.
Starting with the network, I replaced nearly all of the devices on it with newer, better, more compatible ones. I then encrypted the wireless network with WPA encryption. Once this had been completed, I researched and purchased an amazing content filtration system that was contained within a network bridge, so that we no longer had to depend upon our unreliable server for filtration. Over the next few months, I configured it to work well with our systems. After filtration had been set up, I then faced the task of setting up new computer labs.
With the help of some insurance money, some private donations from individual donors, and an amazing grant from a private organization, Florence and Rudy purchased four new MacBooks and two new iMacs for the Harambee Junior Staff (teenagers) to use for school work and media creation. They also purchased eleven new MacBooks for the Preparatory School and After-School program, nine of which would be placed in the computer lab (two were for staff). I was given the task of setting up both labs. This included signing up Harambee for discounts with Consorta, TechSoup, and Gifts In Kind International, so that we could purchase software and supplies for the labs. I secured close to $10,000 in donations from TechSoup alone. In addition, I researched and purchased some cost-effective solutions for educational software for our programs.
While the greatest impact that I made at my site may or may not have been in the lives of the teenagers and children that I worked with, the most visible impact was in rebuilding and improving the technological infrastructure of the youth programs at my site. I may never know the level of my impact on the actual lives of the children and teenagers at Harambee, but I can see the impact on a crucial educational system that can continue to be maintained once I leave.