KEYSPOT, the City of Philadelphia’s network of community-based groups committed to bridging the digital divide, invested $130,000 in 13 non-profit organizations that operate a public access computer lab, called a KEYSPOT. KEYSPOTs are currently located in 19 of the City’s Recreation Centers; three Free Library of Philadelphia-sponsored sites; and 28 additional neighborhood-based organizations, such as social service agencies, health clinics, and homeless shelters. Each KEYSPOT features a minimum of five high-functioning computer stations and delivers at least 15 hours of public open access computing per week.
The 13 grant recipients are Vica Technologies, Dignity Housing, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Casa Monarca, Philadelphia OIC’s MONK, PEC Families First, PEC Gloria’s Place, ACHIEVEability, Urban Affairs Coalition, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Diversified Community Services’ Dixon House, Turning the Tide, and Philadelphia FIGHT’s Institute for Community Justice. First-time awardees received $10,000, while renewing award recipients each received $7,500. Three of the grant recipients were awarded an additional $500 to implement an innovative project at their KEYSPOT.
Supported by the City of Philadelphia, KEYSPOT is managed by a partnership among The Mayor’s Commission on Literacy (MCOL), the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology and Department of Parks and Recreation, and Drexel University. The awards defray the cost for staffing the KEYSPOTS with a qualified assistant who provides one-on-one training and support to visitors and group trainings. Popular trainings offered include Basic Computer, Introduction to the Internet, Job Search, Résumé Writing, and Microsoft Office. Many KEYPOTs also offer more advanced courses, such as digital media, coding, and website design. According to MCOL’s KEYSPOT Program Manager Jennifer Kobrin, KEYSPOTs were visited over 130,000 times between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 alone.
Lifelong Mantua resident Dwayne Walker represents many visitors who never touched a computer before stepping into a neighborhood KEYSPOT. Now, a regular at Drexel University’s Dornsife Center’s KEYSPOT, he not only knows how to navigate the Internet, but he also communicates regularly via his brand new email address with family, friends and colleagues.
While taking computer classes at Dornsife’s KEYSPOT, Walker said he regularly “checked out” the Dornsife information table. It was there that he discovered a flyer seeking local residents to become Family Ambassadors for Drexel’s West Philadelphia Early Childhood Education Initiative (WPECE), a Drexel-led partnership of community and education stakeholders working to improve the quality of early childhood education in the neighborhood. Walker was selected because of his strong connection to the community and active involvement in taking care of his five grandchildren as well as nieces and nephews.
As a Family Ambassador, Walker promotes the importance of quality early childhood education. Because of Walker’s enthusiasm and commitment to the WPECE mission, he was recently promoted to Parent Navigator, which allows him to act as a liaison between other Family Ambassadors and WPECE partners.
According to Walker, he has not allowed this promotion to go to his head. "I’m just a guy who is doing what I am doing because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “My motivation is seeing these children learn and grow.”
Despite some negative detours in his life, Walker successfully earned a GED® and raised four daughters with his wife, who passed away a year ago. After her death, Walker said he sunk into depression. He credits his sister with pushing him to “get busy” to overcome his sadness. This was the impetus for visiting the Dornsife Center, which has had a positive impact on his life.
To find a KEYSPOT in your neighborhood, call Philadelphia’s 3-1-1 information line (215-686-8686) or access the 311 mobile app.