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Re-Entering the Digital World: Computer Classes for Formerly Incacerated Individuals

July 8, 2018

Join us on August 3rd at the SPNN to hear more about this project and others like it.

By Lindsey Tucker, CTEP AmeriCorps member at Neighborhood House

Imagine that you are using a computer for the very first time. How do you turn it on? How do you set up an email address? How do know that the website you are on is safe?

Knowing how to navigate a computer and its many resources is an essential skill, and one that many formerly incarcerated individuals in the process of re-entering society unfortunately lack. While incarcerated, people in correctional facilities are rarely allowed access to computers or other technology. Without any training on how to use the internet or send an email, they find themselves at a severe disadvantage when looking to transition back into society.

Computer Classes for Formerly Incarcerated Adults, a civic engagement project led by CTEP AmeriCorps members, addressed this issue by teaching basic technology skills to a small group of men that have recently left incarceration. Over a period of eight classes located at Amicus, a re-entry service organization in Minneapolis, we began to equip our participants with the knowledge they need to be succeedin an increasingly digital world. We covered topics ranging from learning the basics of Microsoft Office to creating resumes and searching for jobs online.

To provide additional incentives for attending and finishing our class, we worked with Minnesota Computers for Schools to gift each participant their own laptop upon course completion. All participants used these laptops during the course so they could learn how to navigate Windows 10 and become familiar with the devices they would later take home.

Classes occurred twice weekly from late May to June. Throughout our four weeks together, participants learned about searching online, Gmail and Google Drive, the basics of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and how to write and format a resume. The final week was dedicated to learning about different resources that would be useful after the end of the class, including YouTube, Amazon, Craigslist, Wikipedia, and numerous housing and job websites. While it was a small class, we had three incredibly focused and committed participants that showed up each day excited to learn something new.

It was exciting to watch everyone progress, especially one participant who started the class feeling nervous due to his limited experience with computers. By the final day, he was much more confident searching for answers on his own rather than relying on a teacher to guide him along, and was able to use what he had learned to look up the summer movie calendar through Minneapolis Parks and Recreation. He was thrilled to get to take his very first computer home and continue his exploration. Watching him utilize the skills that we taught was a wonderful and impactful way to end the class.

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Civic Engagement Project Title: Re-entering the digital world: Computer classes for formerly incarcerated adults
Project Members: Grace Stewart, Marisa Strothenke, Maddy Trenholm, Julie Goodrich, and Lindsey Tucker
Project Partner: Amicus

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2018 civic engagement projects.