Letters to the Editor

Tackling the digital divide in South Florida

As a basketball player with the Miami Heat, I saw how critical good relationships were to a team’s success. Even though I’m no longer a professional athlete, my current work with at-risk children at the Overtown Youth Center still shows me every day how life is all about relationships and why it is so important to our success to develop and foster the right ones.

I’m proud of the many accomplishments we’ve achieved since we founded the center 12 years ago, particularly that all of our kids graduate from high school, and about 85 percent go on to college.

Comcast has been a corporate partner with the Overtown Youth Center for many years, supporting our mission to inspire and empower South Florida youth and families by fostering hope through education and enrichment opportunities. In particular, our relationship with Comcast has helped us ensure the children and families we serve don’t fall victim to the digital divide.

In today’s increasingly digital world, it is more important than ever for all students to have access to the Internet to complete schoolwork and access information and resources. Their parents need it as well to keep tabs on their children’s education progress through online-learning portals or to complete job applications.

The Overtown Youth Center’s relationship with Comcast grew significantly recently when we became the site of the first Internet Essentials Digital Learning Zone in South Florida. A Comcast grant allowed us to make significant upgrades to our computer lab, including 50 new laptops, software and related equipment, along with much-needed digital literacy training for students and basic computer-skills training for adults.

We couldn’t be more thankful for these improvements and know they will be a great help in our work with South Florida’s at-risk youth. It means that students have another safe, positive environment to access the power of the Internet.

However, we know the need for online access doesn’t stop when our children and families leave the center and head home. That’s when the importance of another program we have partnered with Comcast on becomes evident — the Internet Essentials program.

In just three years, 50,000 Florida families have been connected to the Internet at home through Internet Essentials, which provides affordable online access to qualified low-income families. Many of the families served by the Overtown Youth Center already take advantage of this program to get connected in their homes.

For more information or to sign up for the program, families can visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376, or, for Spanish, visit www.InternetBasico.com or call 1-855-765-6995.

Finally, if you’d like to get more involved in helping bridge the digital divide in South Florida, you can visit www.internetessentials.com/partner and sign up to be a community partner.

Alonzo Mourning, co-founder, Overtown Youth Center, Miami