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Haywood Community College Gets $400K for Digital Literacy

A Digital Champion grant will allow Haywood Community College in North Carolina to develop curriculum for local education sites and hire a full-time digital navigator to provide digital literacy skills for the community.

digital literacy, young man teaching elderly man to use laptop
(TNS) — High-speed Internet has made inroads throughout rural Haywood County the last couple of years thanks to broadband expansion projects, but tapping into online world could be daunting for some who had been previously left behind by the digital divide.

Haywood Community College will soon have an answer to help the public navigate the digital landscape thanks to a $400,000 grant.

The college was among 63 nonprofit, community service, higher education and regional organizations to receive a portion of $30 million in Digital Champion grants.

"Receiving the Digital Champion Grant is an important step in bridging the digital divide and empowering Haywood County with the skills needed to thrive in today's technology-driven world," HCC President Shelley White said. "HCC is committed to making a positive impact and providing opportunities for all members of our community."

The college worked with the Haywood Broadband Committee and the Southwestern Commission to identify needs for digital literacy in Haywood, White explained.

"We developed a plan that would help our community members gain access to technology and critical skills," she said, adding it was exciting to hear that the state would be funding the plan.

The grant will allow the college to hire a full-time digital navigator to provide digital literacy skills throughout the community. HCC will also develop and deliver curriculum at the college and sites around the county, specifically community centers.

Grant funding will also provide refurbished laptops for up to 200 participants and will allow the college to update two computer labs on campus.

With the grant, HCC will offer short-term continuing education classes, and there will be scholarship funds in the grant to cover registration fees. Classes should be ready to roll out in early 2025.

White said she was pleasantly surprised to receive the grant.

"We submitted back in January and knew it would be competitive, so it was great news," White said.

The grants aimed at helping North Carolinians access and use high-speed Internet were funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The funding will expand digital equity programming and advance digital inclusion and opportunity across North Carolina, according to a news release.

"All North Carolinians need the resources and skills to safely and effectively use high-speed Internet and benefit from the opportunities it offers," said Gov. Roy Cooper. "Digital Champion grants will help more families take part in our increasingly digital world to work, learn, access vital telehealth services and connect with others online."

Projects were assessed on the following elements of digital inclusion, of which HCC checked numerous boxes:

  • Affordability of reliable high-speed Internet

  • Provision of Internet-enabled devices (computer, laptops, etc.) that meet users' needs

  • Access to digital literacy and skills training

  • Quality technical support

  • Applications and online content designed to increase accessibility and inclusivity

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