4-H Helping Kids in Rural Areas Get Access to High Speed Internet-Interview
by National 4-H Council
ACHIEVING THE “AMERICAN DREAM”MAY SEEM ELUSIVE FOR TEENAGERS WHO DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED INTERNET. Now an Innovative 4-H Program Is Changing That for Millions
The “American Dream”
is built on the idea that with hard work, upward mobility and success are possible. In our ever-evolving and technology-dependent society, digital skills and broadband access are necessary tools for achievement.
However, more than 24 million people living in the U.S., including 19 million in rural communities, do not have access to broadband, also known as high-speed internet. That leaves a large portion of today’s teens locked out when it comes to rural high-speed internet. This essential service in today’s economy impacts everything from children’s education to their future economic mobility.
Recent research shows that overall, teens without broadband access feel less equipped online with it comes to connecting, creating, and learning.
The research also shows:
- Almost half of the teens surveyed said they’ve struggled to complete homework due to slow internet connections
- Teens without broadband are less optimistic about their social mobility for higher education & careers
- 43% of rural teens surveyed plan to leave their hometowns and 34% of those teens cite poor internet connectivity as the reason; which means these towns are losing talent and future innovation.
As leaders in positive youth development, National 4-H Council partnered with Microsoft on the 4-H Tech Changemakers program.
The initiative is aimed at closing the connectivity gap in rural areas by empowering teens to bring technology and digital skills to their communities. The program works to position digital skills as a valuable life skill that’s necessary for improving non-urban communities’ path towards economic mobility.
The 4-H Tech Changemakers are working with broadband service providers
throughout the U.S., along with community members and civic leaders to help teens gain the digital skills needed to benefit from technology and high-speed connectivity, which includes everything from online safety to computer basics and device training.
Join me in a recent interview with Eli and Emily who are members of the 4-H Tech Changemakers as they share more about the programs being implemented, how they’re helping to bridge this technological gap and make sure that all community members across the country have the tools and skills they need to achieve the American dream.
Listen to the entire interview here.
For more information, go to 4-h.org
Eli Price, Charlotte County, Virginia
Eli is 18 and lives on a farm in Charlotte County, where he and his family grow vegetables. He has seen how his community has struggled to shift from manufacturing and tobacco growing to vegetables and other diverse crops.
Eli has been told by older community members to “cultivate his mind before his field” and to pursue whatever opportunities he can. Eli stated, “I love my county and community; moving away or not being able to help my county is almost unthinkable.”
To help make it possible for him and future generations to stay, he’s working with local students to build the rural workforce and with small farmers to learn how to design websites and market themselves to large food distributors.
He hopes to help give these farmers a more professional and competitive edge that will help grow the local agriculture industry and provide more economic opportunities for the community. Eli sees broadband access as an integral part of this because the limited access on rural farms makes it even harder to compete.
His family has to drive into town when they need to make updates to their farm’s website, and he recognizes that this alone presents a huge barrier in helping farms modernize.
Emily Momberg, Catoosa County, Georgia
Emily is 18 and grew up in Catoosa, Georgia in a semi-urban area. While Emily’s county is more connected than others in Georgia, many people in surrounding communities don’t have the same access she does. She recognizes what a privilege it is to have high-speed internet access.
When Emily learned about 4-H Tech Changemakers she immediately wanted to get involved because she was shocked by just how many people were impacted by the digital divide. Emily said,
“Learning about the digital divide has made me so passionate about teaching others… I want to help others that want to learn more, but that doesn’t have access to that education.”
She recognizes how lucky she was to grow up in a household with broadband and with a parent that is highly skilled in technology. Emily wants to help share this knowledge with others. Through her Tech Changemakers program, she is focusing on providing parents to children in their county’s lower-income schools with training that will help them foster their own children’s online learning.
*Interview courtesy: National 4-H Council & Microsoft