St. Elizabeth’s Urban Centre Technology Hub
St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church Urban Center was recently awarded a $6000 grant from the Becoming Beloved Community Rapid-Response Grant, funding allocated to allow churches to better respond to the needs of poor communities hardest hit by COVID-19. This $6000 funding will provide St. Elizabeth’s the opportunity to develop a Technology Hub that will provide our community access to the type of technology that will support parents and children as they work virtually either in our church or in our parking lot. It will also allow job seekers to look for employment and to connect to employers via the Internet.
The population of the City of Elizabeth is approximately 125,000. Forty-two percent of the population are foreign born with English as their second language; 64.5% are Latino and 18.6% are African American. The high school dropout rate is 26%, and 16% of the City’s population lives in poverty (2010 Census). St. Elizabeth’s is located in the center of the City of Elizabeth and has already been providing our community with educational services that include access to computer technology and ESL instruction.
Urban areas with a high concentration of students from low-income households have been less likely to expect their school systems to provide real-time lessons, track student attendance or grade assignments because of the digital divide made more evident by the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed that access to technology is vital, and because poor students don’t have the ability to access computer technology, a critical component for them to connect to their schools, instructors and fellow students, their ability to succeed in school is limited. Additionally, adults who are homeless are totally excluded from accessing this service making it impossible to look and apply for employment.
St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church proposes to develop an Urban Technology Hub as an extension of our Urban Center. Our existing computer labs will be reconfigured to meet all Center for Disease Control guidelines while the Church’s existing internet capability will be enhanced to offer WIFI access to individuals who own devices (i.e. cell phones, tablets and laptop computers) but do not have reliable access to the internet, have limited access or no access at all. Parents will be able to park in the Church’s parking lot, access the internet and help their children with homework. Individuals looking for jobs will be able to access the internet in our garden or could access our existing computer labs to job search and submit resumes.