At its Annual Gala, Nat’l Urban Tech Center Vows to Continue its Mission of Digital Literacy

0
21

Urban TechAccording to the National Urban Technology Center’s website, a 2013 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study published in the New York Times cited that youth and adults in the United States are fairing dismally as compared to 19 other countries in proficiency areas such as literacy, math, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Further, the study found that among 16 – 24 year olds in 20 countries, the US ranked second to last in mean literacy rates, last in mean proficiency in numeracy rates, and second highest in the percentile of youths who scored at the lowest level in problem solving.

In spite of these dismal statistics, the National Urban Technology Center has been committed, for the past 20 years, to creating programs that provide parents, educators and school administrators with the tools to help students get to the next level. By reimaging literacy, Urban Tech is providing opportunities for digital, financial, social and emotional literacy through learning centers strategically placed in some of the nation’s most underserved communities.

“We have always created a level playing field to get access to technology and other programs. Since our existence, we’ve built 500 centers in some of the nation’s largest cities. We’ve put 2 million people to work and our people come out with new skills. Unfortunately, due to the country’s economic problems, approximately half of the Centers have since closed. But all of our renovators are again building more Centers. We will have more content creation and more sophisticated skills to interact with students,” Urban Tech President Patricia Bransford told TNJ.com at Urban Tech’s annual Gala held at the posh Guastavino’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. 

Bransford says Urban Tech recently created a 3-year pilot to enable them to open centers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Tonight, we hope to raise $500,000 matching a big investment by a philanthropist to help us train principals to bring their skills up,” she told us. (By night’s end, $450,000 was raised.)

Hazel Dukes, who has been involved with Urban Tech since its launch, agreed. In an interview with the legendary NAACP past national president and current president of NAACP’s New York State Conference, Dukes told TNJ.com, “Our kids need people to help get them involved in technology. Public schools can’t do all the innovative work, but Pat [Bransford] found schools that want to be involved. I have been to these schools and I have watched how they’ve progressed.”    

It was a packed room for the star-studded event that honored June Ambrose, celebrity stylist; Raymond J. McGuire, global head of corporate & investment banking at Citigroup Inc.; Crystal McCrary, producer and director; and Shannon Schuyler of PwC Charitable Foundation.

McCrary, who is also a youth advocate, told TNJ.com that her goal is to have programming that families can watch together, “Programs that allow them their integrity and authenticity that will squash the stereotypes,” she adds.   

Ambrose agrees with McCrary and is also Team Urban Tech. “When I learned about the work that Urban Tech is doing, I knew it was right up my alley. Growing up and being raised by a single mom, I attended programs similar to Urban Tech such as the Fresh Air Fund and the Boys & Girls Club of America. These organizations pave the way for kids to find their way out of their circumstances,” Ambrose told us.

She continues, “Technology is an amazing grace and a second language for our kids. We are change agents and we have to start to empower them early.

Hosted by Journalist & TV Personality Alicia Quarles, the event also included influencers such as Sheena Wright of the United Way of New York City; Michael Blake, Assemblyman 79th District, New York State; Brandee McHale, Citi Foundation; E Denise Perry, Millenium Dance Company; Dr. Eleanor Smalley, JASON Project; and Sharon Y Bowen, CFTC; Jennifer Jones Austin, FPWA; Dr. Thelma Dye-Holmes, CEO Northside Center for Child Development; and Model & Actress Veronica Webb.