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May 28, 2002

Digital Divide
 

Calvin College computer science students and their professors will partner this summer with Grand Rapids residents to bridge the digital divide thanks to grants from the Calvin Alumni Association and the Netherlands-based Noaber Foundation (which has a local office).

For eight weeks, on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the Calvin students, and professors Joel Adams, Jeremy Frens, David Laverell and Jeff Nyhoff, will work with area residents who are hoping to improve their computer skills. The Thursday night class will meet at Calvin and bring in residents who are part of the Oakdale Neighbors program. The Wednesday night class will take place at the Calvin@Burton Heights project at Burton and South Division.

On Thursdays, at Calvin, there actually will be two classes (both held in Science Building 372, the Windows Lab at Calvin). From 4-6 p.m. teens will be taught and from 7-9 p.m. it will be the turn of the adults. In between there will be pizza (part of the Calvin Alumni Association grant money pays for the pizza!). The Wednesday night program will run from 7-8:30 at 1725 South Division.

Both classes will teach participants lots about computers and both will have an added bonus: the students will get a free computer. Calvin is partnering with the Noaber Foundation, founded by Paul Baan, a successful IT entrepreneur from the Netherlands, which works worldwide to ease the digital divide, incubate and grow pioneering assistive technology companies, and to bring IT skills to employees in disadvantaged and marginalized communities bring computer skills to low-income people, and through that partnership a total of 25 computers will be given away at no charge to participants in the two classes. Laverell says the computers are nice machines.

"They're all at least Pentium II machines," he says. "They'll come with a pretty nice monitor, a mouse and a keyboard. If I had one of these at home I'd hold onto it for a while yet."

In addition, thanks to the Noaber Foundation all of the machines will come with licensed copies of Windows and Office 2000, including word processing, spreadsheet capability and more. Also, Calvin students have recently installed modems in each computer for internet and e-mail access.

The class will teach participants everything from how to set up the computer to how to use the internet and e-mail to word processing and speadsheet capabilities. But Laverell says flexibility will be the key.

"We'll have to get a sense early on of where the class is," he says, "and be ready and willing to meet their needs. I'm excited. It should be a fun eight weeks."

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)
dehp@calvin.edu