Local 4-Hers trained to help implement digital literacy program in Orleans

Photos courtesy of Orleans County 4-H program: Kayla Sucy, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Leader and volunteer, Emma Mathes and Allison Mathes, both Orleans County 4-Hers, are pictured outside the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Posted 26 February 2019 at 4:44 pm

Press Release, Orleans County 4-H program

Allison Mathes and Emma Mathes engage in an activity to help them envision how their work as 4-H Tech Changemakers/Digital Ambassadors will benefit residents of Orleans County.

Two Orleans County 4-Hers travelled to Washington, D.C. Feb. 21-23 to attend regional training for the 4-H Tech Changemakers/Digital Ambassadors program, which was presented by National 4-H Council and Microsoft.

Orleans County is one of seven counties in New York State sharing an $84,403 grant through the National 4-H Council and Microsoft to help address digital literacy issues through empowering youth to help close the broadband internet gap.

Allison Mathes and Emma Mathes, both students at Albion High School (and cousins), went on the trip with Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Program Coordinator Kristina Gabalski and adult volunteer Kayla Sucy. The teens are now prepared to lead a group of additional Orleans County 4-Hers and adult volunteers to implement the program in Orleans County.

“We will be setting up between six and ten workshops around the county to help residents truly adopt and use technology to improve their opportunities and outcomes,” Kristina Gabalski said.  “The program seeks to address the lack of broadband internet access as well as help adults feel secure and knowledgeable enough to adopt and use technology. This partnership will elevate teens as teachers to provide training and communication to assist adults in our community with increasing their comfort level in utilizing new technology.”

The regional training in Washington D.C. helped to give Allison and Emma a better understanding of the initiative as well as the curriculum and tools we have at our disposal to facilitate trainings in Orleans County, Gabalski said.

“Microsoft and National 4-H Council will also facilitate meetings with Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) we might partner with here,” she said.  “Microsoft has been working with ISP’s in 13 states across the country to expand ‘air band’ or ‘white TV’ wireless broadband internet access which utilizes portions of the broadcast spectrum no longer used by television. This can enable broadband to go places it has been difficult to reach with wires and cables.”

Kayla Sucy (with back to camera) and Allison Mathes, right, work with regional training leaders and members of a county 4-H team from Maine to practice lesson plans for potential digital literacy workshops.

Microsoft turned to 4-H to help them in their efforts to bridge the “digital divide” in the United States because, “4-Hers serve as a trusted voice and have many long-standing relationships within their communities, which create an effective training environment and builds a compelling movement throughout the community,” Gabalski says.  “This work will have profound effects in education, workforce development and community sustainability.”

Another workshop during the regional training involved creating empathy for those Allison and Emma may teach who have sight and hearing challenges.

Allison and Emma had never been to visited Washington, D.C. The trip enabled them to visit the national monuments. Their favorite monument was the Lincoln Memorial. They also were able to work directly with 4-H youth from other states involved in the regional training including teams from Maine, Maryland and West Virginia.

The Tech Changemakers/Digital Ambassadors youth leaders will be spokespeople to lift up and expand the youth voice in this critical conversation, Gablaski noted.

“This will ensure their experiences as well as hopes and dreams for their community are heard,” she said. “We will be working to schedule our workshops around Orleans County through the summer of 2020, and also hope to have a strong presence at community events including the Orleans County 4-H Fair in July and National Night Out in Albion in August.”

She will be reaching out to community organizations and municipal and county leaders to offer programming. She encourages any groups who are interested in having a workshop to contact her at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 585-798-4265.

A range of topics are addressed including information literacy (credible sources of digital information, website evaluation criteria, etc.), parental roles in the use of social media, online shopping, and online job searches/job applications.

“We are here to give basic help and guidance for anyone who would like to make better use of their personal digital devices and the positive opportunities the internet provides,” Gabalski said.

This is a group shot of all 4-H youth and adult leaders who took part in the regional 4-H Tech Changemakers/Digital Ambassadors training in Washington, D.C. Feb. 22 and 23.  Emma and Allison Mathes are to the left of center in the front row.

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