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Tech Empowerment Day helps underserved students explore modern technology

On October 4th, Los Angeles County hosted its second annual Tech Empowerment Day to celebrate Digital Inclusion Week at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This event is part of L.A.’s Delete the Divide initiative, which supports underserved communities with technology resources. A founding sponsor of Tech Empowerment Day in 2022, Google Cloud again served as a key partner in ensuring students gain hands-on experiences with modern technologies. The 2023 event featured 40 booths from tech companies, including Google Public Sector, that students could freely explore.

Tech Empowerment Day serves as a catalyst for students, educators, and school administrators to spark change within their communities. Students explore how technology can align with their interests in areas like gaming, cybersecurity, software development, augmented reality, and AI. Teachers and administrators can observe skills-based learning techniques to introduce students to engaging STEM education

The Google Public Sector booth showcased how Google Cardboard can be an effective way for students and teachers to bring immersive lessons into their classrooms. As a simple VR viewer that uses cardboard and a smartphone to create a VR experience, Google Cardboard offered students access to an exciting, hands-on technology experience. Students were also thrilled to assemble and take home their own Cardboard viewer. Bringing a piece of pioneering technology to their families and community helps increase exposure and furthers Delete the Divide’s mission.

“You can utilize the technology right on the spot—it’s so intuitive—and to see their eyes light up and the questions and the spark,” stated Selwyn Hollins, Director of the Internal Services Department for L.A. County. “We’re hoping to inspire some of them to take it back to school, take it on their own, or to want to pursue a career.”

Fostering tech empowerment within L.A. County

Digital Divide communities are those where 20% or more of households don’t have access to the internet. In Los Angeles County, those communities include over 450 schools. Breaking down barriers to entry, L.A. County made sure all costs for the event were covered and offered free, all-you-can-eat food from local vendors. Grow with Google also provides Coursera access and certification classes for cybersecurity, data analytics, digital marketing and more. In 2022, Google donated $10 million to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to remove more roadblocks for Digital Divide communities. The county is already seeing the impact—they have 247 paid interns in their IT department and pay their Google Certificate holders higher salaries for their skills. Motivated students are completing their Google certificate in two to six months through self-paced learning.

“Tech Empowerment Day is about more than exposure,” Hollins explained. “There’s a common belief that if you give people access, that’s enough. What we do is give you experience. You can have access, but if you’re not engaged, you can’t take full advantage of what it has to offer. It’s about the experience as well as the access.”

There’s a common belief that if you give people access, that’s enough. What we do is give you experience. You can have access, but if you’re not engaged, you can’t take full advantage of what it has to offer. It’s about the experience as well as the access. Selwyn Hollins
Director of the Internal Services Department for Los Angeles County

Breaking barriers, building futures

This year, attendance doubled, with more than 6,000 students experiencing some of the latest modern technology. The county has also had eight student interns from underserved communities move on to IT jobs that pay $67,000-$90,000/year. In a county where 1.1 million households earn less than $50,000 a year, that goes a long way toward uplifting entire families. Hollins hopes they keep doubling it every year, expanding the impact.

L.A. County has some tips for state and local governments looking to create something similar to Tech Empowerment Day. “Start by leveraging your partnerships,” according to Hollins. “We never had to ask Google for anything. Google shared ideas based on things they’ve done in other places. And that’s what makes Google a special partner for us: They ask, ‘How do we help make a difference?’”

We’re proud to have partnered together at Tech Empowerment Day, and we look forward to continuing to support L.A. County as they pursue finding new ways to “Delete the Divide.” To learn more about making technology more accessible in your community, visit Grow with Google. If you’d like more about Tech Empowerment Day, read last year’s blog.

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