When we first heard about the national Remake Learning Days (RLD) festival and that Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading had been selected to participate, I wanted my company, Maribel Martinez Consulting, to be involved. I knew exactly what our event would be.

Since one of our areas of expertise is digital equity planning and implementation, I wanted to continue supporting TPF’s Digital Access for All initiative. It was also an opportunity to help narrow the digital divide just a bit more in our adopted city of Sarasota.

Since the purpose of RLD is for host organizations to feature free, hands-on learning opportunities for children and their parents to enjoy together, hosting a computer build for households with students without computers was a clear choice based on our previous experience with computer builds in other cities. Sprinkle in the chance for kids and parents to learn basic code, start a fun coding project together, and learn about free productivity software for the whole family, and #BuildCodeGo became a hashtag!

The first big challenge to making #BuildCodeGo a reality was finding funding for the 25-75 households we wanted to impact. Working in the digital equity space, we know it is becoming increasingly difficult for needy people to acquire computing devices because of their price point. For the same reason, it’s challenging for practitioners to find sponsors for computers, even when they are for asset-limited populations. Throw in unpredictable inventory due to supply chain disruptions brought on by COVID-19, and we began to doubt if we would be able to secure any funding to purchase the computer kits central to #BuildCodeGo.

After months of outreach, and with the help of local willing and caring contacts, we obtained enough funding to cover the cost of five computers with webcams in partnership with UnidosNow. It was great to reunite with the UnidosNow Digital Navigators we trained last year to identify local families with students in 4th-8th grades who needed a computer. With assistance from their Digital Navigators, the five families could subscribe to affordable broadband before #BuildCodeGo so the computer would not sit idle once it came home. To add to our joy, we were fortunate to hold the event at the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center free of charge, for which we were so grateful!

On May 7, 2022, #BuildCodeGo created the space for five families to bring home a new computer they built together and connected it to an affordable (and in some cases, free!) home broadband connection. For each of these hardworking, appreciative families, it was a chance to glimpse through a window of new opportunities for every family member.

In all, about 20 people learned new tech vocabulary, experienced the inner workings of a personal computer, understood how code makes music, art, and educational games, and made the connection between productivity tools and their daily lives. Computers and the internet have a multiplier effect. Where some see sticker shock, others see an investment in education, workforce development, health and wellness, civic engagement, economic mobility, and prosperity.

Now, the students in these five households have a computer they can use in and out of the classroom so they will not fall behind their wealthier peers. And who knows? Perhaps the next disruptive innovator’s curiosity was awakened that afternoon at #BuildCodeGo. We may not have been able to serve dozens of families that day, but we know it made a difference to the ones we could help.

For more information on bringing #BuildCodeGo to your organization, contact Maribel Martinez Consulting.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.