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Crossing digital divide
December 27, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Technology often results in opportunities for schools to work more closely with parents but can also create a challenge.

Locally, many schools provide parents the chance to follow their child’s progress through an online service. Parents can log on and see grades, progress through the year and even missing assignments. However, in lower socioeconomic areas, parents who do not have access to the Internet or the basic skills for using it aren’t always in the loop. The online tools aren’t being accessed. To help improve parental involvement, One Million New Internet Users, which goes by One Million NIU, offers classes to parents to learn about online resources to support their children and also for personal job training opportunities. Recently, the Southern California-based organization held its first graduation at Sequoia High School in Redwood City.

One Million NIU CEO Larry Ortega explained the goal is to improve graduation rates. By giving parents technology tools to be involved in their student’s life, the parents can help guide their son or daughter toward graduating and college, he said.

Through the 40-hour training over six weeks, the goal is to provide a bridge for parents to give them tools they need in a culturally-comfortable environment, said Ortega.

In the most recent Redwood City class of 13, for example, one parent realized their child had not done assignments they had claimed to have finished.

"The program has been a great opportunity; it has empowered parents to better help their kids be successful in school,” said Sequoia Principal Bonnie Hansen.

Parents are also introduced to ways to research opportunities for colleges, scholarships and financial aid. In addition to empowering parents to be more involved, they also learn computer skills that can be applied to a job, Ortega said.

One Million NIU is a partnership that offers two-thirds of the program funding to districts willing to work with it. Most of the money comes from grants. Districts, Ortega said, can use federal funds given to districts with students from low-income families.

With one class in San Mateo County complete, the group is hoping to expand opportunities to others schools within the Sequoia Union High School District, as well as in East Palo Alto, San Jose and Gilroy.


For more information about One Million NIU opportunities contact Debbie Janes at  Djanes@communityunion.org or (323) 526-7331, or visit www.onemillionNIU.org.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.





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