Providence Public Library Receives $100,000 Grant from Verizon

February 27, 2020

Award will enable Library to expand array of programs and services to support digital literacy and equity

Providence Public Library (PPL) is proud to announce receipt of a $100,000 grant from Verizon to support greater digital equity among all Rhode Islanders through existing and new community education initiatives, including technology-related education and workforce development opportunities statewide, and particularly in communities with greatest need.

“Through this funding, and in partnership with Verizon, we look forward to furthering PPL’s role as a digital equity change maker and leader. Our goal, working with Verizon and a variety of partners, is to ensure that our residents are prepared with the digital skills for today’s and tomorrow’s economy, while making Rhode Island the #1 state for the number of residents who are digitally literate,” said Jack Martin, PPL Executive Director.

“Verizon wants our next-generation networks and related technologies to have a meaningful and forward-looking impact as we work to help prepare our nation and our society for social and economic success in the coming decade, said Donna Cupelo, Region Vice President of State Government Affairs at Verizon. We’re proud and excited to partner with organizations including Providence Public Library. With this grant, Verizon and Providence Public Library want to help offer new and enhanced digital access that will lead to new and exciting life-changing skills in technology — opportunities and programs that will help close social disparities, enhance and improve workforce readiness for Americans of all ages and so much more.”

“As a center for digital equity, PPL will utilize this significant funding to expand existing programs like its successful Learning Lounges, Digital Literacy Corps, and Technology Pathway. Additionally, the grant will allow for us to pioneer new efforts including the development of a device repair program in partnership with Verizon and local hardware repair training programs to address current gaps in the availability and accessibility of these services for underserved populations who are most affected by the digital divide,” said Karisa Tashjian, PPL Education Director.

Existing free library programs like Learning Lounges, located in libraries and other workforce and community education centers statewide, have become a staple in the landscape for adults seeking to achieve their learning goals in an informal, professional and technology-assisted environment. Among the myriad personal and workforce development services provided, adults receive assistance from experienced professionals in the acquisition of computer skills and in the use of digital resources. Learning Lounges are also official Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment proctored testing sites where participants can earn certificates and digital badges that prove knowledge and give a credential for employment.

With translation help from PPL Learning Lounge Coordinator Lina Bravo, PPL student Enliany Rosario gave testimony to the support she receives in the Library’s Learning Lounge. “I like everything about my class; the way the teacher gives the class, she is very dynamic; and the teacher teaches me digital resources to study the vocabulary I need. I like that I have access to computers because I don’t have a computer or cable in my house; and I like the class because they teach me to use different applications on my cell phone. I use apps in my cell phone to learn English. Thank you Verizon for supporting the library and these programs that more and more people need.”

PPL Technology Specialist Betty Tavares told those gathered that “Teaching and helping others is my passion and I believe that to be a good teacher for our students, first we need to work on relationships as a community or a team. With this idea all goals can be achieved. My motivation is to see the happiness in their face every day because they are learning something new and believing that I can help them.”

PPL technology student Maria Quinonez, who is now teaching as a member of the Library’s Digital Literacy Corps at Pawtucket Library after continuing her studies with Betty, spoke about her experiences and aspirations. At the same time that she was taking computer classes, she is also taking English and GED classes and dreams of attending college one day. “I want to thank my teachers with the patience and dedication, especially to teacher Betty, who is supporting me all the time. Thank you to all those who make these programs possible, for me they have been a great blessing and I am sure that I am not the only one that can say the same. I can say now that nothing is impossible.”
The Library’s Digital Literacy Corps program is a mutually beneficial “train-the-trainer” model that has been successfully implemented in a number of settings. Participants who complete digital literacy programs and demonstrate mastery and interest in the subject have the opportunity to facilitate programs and one-on-one support for future participants, provide outreach and promote programs to underserved groups, support basic back-end technology maintenance for the program, and more.

Meanwhile, PPL’s “Technology Pathway” is a growing suite of workforce development technology classes which includes basic computer literacy to in-demand technology skills in software coding, data analytics and visualization and Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Annually, we serve more than 2,000 Rhode Island residents. The Technology Pathway accommodates participants entering at any point on the continuum.

PPL adheres to an agile, continuous improvement strategy to innovate, expand, and ensure that it is meeting the community and state’s changing education, technology and workforce development needs. PPL was recently named Providence Business News’ 2019 Innovative Company/Organization for Education in recognition of its outstanding contributions to Rhode Island’s education landscape.