Adult residents of the Columbus Housing Authority can earn a Lenovo laptop and a home Wi-Fi hotspot by taking an eight-hour digital literacy class through the Columbus Housing Authority.
“I’m a product of the Housing Authority, and I recognize the importance of education for quality of life,” said Columbus Housing Authority Executive Director Debra Taylor. “CHA took care of me, and I want to give back.”
The CHA partnered with Columbus Light and Water and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s ACTNow program. ACTNow is a pilot program, launching in Columbus, that aims to increase digital literacy.
“Education helps make life better, which is TVA’s mission,” said TVA Regional Vice President Mark Yates. “This will help increase digital literacy among adult and senior learners who are often left behind in the digital realm.”
Classes are free and will be offered at the CHA Resource Center at 1515 4th Street South, which is right across from Friendship Cemetery.
Taylor said the service is badly needed.
“There are minimal internet resources at the Housing Authority,” she said. “Many times the only digital device in a household is a cellphone, but there are multiple family members who may need to do school work, search for a job or telehealth.”
TVA is contributing about $270,000 through a grant for the program, said CLW General Manager Angela Verdell, with CHA and CLW providing about $70,000 on top of that.
“We’re going to provide about 250 laptops,” she said. “We’re buying hotspots from C Spire to give them internet access.”
The grant will also cover monthly internet access for the Wi-Fi hotspots.
The project was a continuation of plans laid by the late Todd Gale, who preceded Verdell as general manager at CLW.
“Prior to the demise of the late (Gale) there was a partnership in place with them to find a way to bridge the digital divide and find devices and internet connections for our residents,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, due to his untimely demise, our project came to a halt. But it did not lie dormant for long.”
Verdell said the CLW partnered with CHA as part of its mission to better the quality of life in Columbus.
“I grew up in a Housing Authority unit not a stone’s throw from here,” she said. “When this opportunity came up I couldn’t let it pass by.”
Mayor Keith Gaskin said the partnership was exactly what he wanted to see.
“I want to thank the CHA and CLW for being proactive and working on this grant,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of thing that Columbus needs to continue to do. Columbus is one of the finest cities in Mississippi and we’re proud to be part of a pilot project like this.”
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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