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Project Connect Bridges Digital Divide
June 5, 2006

For the sixth straight summer an innovative program from Calvin College called Project Connect is helping bridge the digital divide, the gap between those who have access to and the skills to use technology and those who do not.

Project Connect is providing both basic computers and information literacy to people in the Grand Rapids area via technology training classes and computers for all participants.

The classes meet this month at three locations: Calvin, CentrePointe Church in Kentwood and Grace Korean Church in the Burton Heights neighborhood.

At Calvin and Burton Heights the classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from now until June 15. At CentrePointe the class meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings from now until June 14.

Each location also sees Calvin working with a community partner. At Calvin the partner is the GT Resource Network, at CentrePointe it is the Homework House Program and at Grace Korean Church it is the Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association.

Calvin professor Keith VanderLinden is one of the instructors, all of whom are volunteering their time and talent to the project.

He says the computer science department at Calvin takes its Christian calling to serve seriously and that Project Connect fits perfectly into that mission. He says too that the community partnerships that the college and the department have forged make the program work.

Also, Calvin students are involved in the project through a cross cultural engagement course at the college that sees them help teach the classes in early summer and then maintain contact with the Project Connect students through Christmas, helping with system problems, fixing machines, answering questions and more.

"It turns out," says VanderLinden, "that this 'helpdesk' function is critical to the success of the program."

The course covers the basic administration skills that parents need to maintain a family computer, and at the end they are given a computer that is theirs to keep.

"They're used," says VanderLinden, "but very functional machines."