Published by Benton Foundation
Authored by Angela Siefer, Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)
ASC3 serves four Cleveland neighborhoods (Glenville, Forest Hills, South Collinwood and East Cleveland) -- and anyone else who requests their services. These neighborhoods are economically-diverse and family-oriented with a strong representation of older, African-American adults and Case Western Reserve University students. The draw of important churches in these neighborhoods brings in traffic from elsewhere in Cleveland. All four neighborhoods have low home broadband adoption rates.
Wanda Davis and her family wanted to strengthen their community. They had two family businesses they needed to close, but they owned the property and realized there was an opportunity to create a community center. Ms. Davis said, “As we closed the hardware store and deli, wanted to make sure what we left was long standing and supportive of the community. The purpose has always been about impact.”
The easy part was getting confirmation from the community that a technology training center was very much needed. They asked community residents what they would like to see in the community. They gathered responses through a paper survey filled out in the stores and by going door-to-door. Ms. Davis said, “We could see middle- and upper-age community members didn’t have the computer skills they needed and this was causing job loss.”
Getting financial support was much more difficult. As a new 501(c)3, ASC3 had trouble securing grants because it did not have a track record. So it spent two years in the planning stage. Finally, Ms. Davis and her husband sent out letters to 50 people in their business network asking for $300 each to support this new community venture. Their goal was to create 10 work stations (PC, monitor, keyboard and mouse). Eleven people sent back $300 for a total of $3,300. The Davises added personal funds to purchase recycled work stations. A $10,000 grant from United Black Front was used to pay an instructor and keep the doors open.
Partnerships have been key to ASC3 since it was founded. At the time, Case Western Reserve University was trying to be more engaged in the community because there was a clear divide between the university and the surrounding community. Case couldn’t donate funds, but could give office equipment and the basics needed to get set up (tables, chairs, carpet, paint, etc).
ASC3 began operation in 2002 and welcomed a total of 30 students in two class sessions. Students were recruited via flyers, partnerships (including a nearby senior center that did not provide technology training), and word of mouth. Ms. Davis said, “We went to street fairs and churches (those are very important!) and we ended up with way more students than we could train!” By 2005, ASC3 consistently had 55 to 70 students (all seniors) in each class throughout the year. These numbers continue to grow and demonstrate the success of the center, as well as the widespread interest from the community.
The mission of ASC3 is to bridge the digital divide in Cleveland communities by addressing the technology needs of older adults with limited income. ASC3 provides access, education, resources and training to help clients obtain technology literacy.