Technology for All

Houston, TX

Mission: To empower under-resourced communities through the tools of technology.

Technology For All (TFA) focuses most of its programs on the support and encouragement of community technology centers (CTCs) across the greater Houston area. In collaboration with the Mision Milby CDC (MMCDC), TFA operates its own CTC and together TFA and MMCDC develop and test programs that can be replicated in other CTCs. TFA is also focused on creating social enterprises that use technology as a tool to solve community problems. As an example, under the umbrella of “TFA-Services,” TFA is developing projects like TFA-Wierless, which is creating new oppertunites for low income communities to reach the internet.

Supported Projects

Wireless Network Installation and Community Outreach

James Carlson

James worked for Technology For All in our TFA-Wireless social enterprise. TFA-Wireless is a joint research project with TFA and Rice University. The network provides free wireless internet to low income under resourced community in South East Houston. His efforts were focused in the area of community wireless networking with primary areas of responsibility covering implementation, administration and expansion of a multi-node wireless mesh network providing covering 3 Sq Km.

As a graduate Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech the technical requirements of his position were quickly mastered. In addition to the technical aspects of the project James had worked in the area of community engagement as a regular as part of his responsibilities. The community is primarily Latino, many of which are recent or first generation immigrants. The biggest hurdle for James in this area was the language barrier as James was not conversational in Spanish. The opportunity and challenges in this type of research network abound. Regardless of these challenges, James was highly successful in increasing the range and scope of services we can offer the residents of these areas and his presence will be missed from both in the interpersonal arena as well as his technical proficiency.

CTC Program Building and Outreach

Nichole Payne

With initial funding for equipment and supplies from the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast and another anonymous grant, TFA has developed a Digital Media program at the Misión Milby Community Technology Center for youth in the East End. Over 60 youth signed up for this program. With the leadership, coordination and facilitation skills of our VISTA volunteer, Nikki Payne, youth in the program are learning skills for movie making, web design and other digital media tools.

Through the efforts of the Americorps VISTA volunteer services, nearly 2,000 middle school and high school students in the East End community have benefited from using the Mission Milby CDC computer lab. The lab activities are coordinated by Nikki Payne, Americorps VISTA volunteer. It is expected that this number will double by the end of the program year, in August.

With a digital media grant obtained through one of our volunteers during our work with Katrina evacuees, Nikki studied digital media programs in Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. Nikki returned with curriculum and digital media best practices for distribution to other community technology centers in Houston.

CTC Program Building and Volunteer Coordinator

Pete Rodriguez

Goal 1: To help TFA further develop various policies and procedures related to services provided by the Mission Milby Community Technology Center (MMCTC)
Goal 2: To help TFA develop and train volunteers to use the system for receiving / distribution of donated computer equipment to CTCs in the Houston area.
Goal 3: To help TFA recruit and train volunteers to teach and run the Learn and Earn program at MMCTC.
Goal 4: To help TFA plan and implement a summer 2005 youth computer camp program at MMCTC.
Goal 5: To help TFA develop and maintain a curriculum repository on all materials taught at MMCTC and help train volunteers to maintain the system.

Pete has worked extensively with our Learn and Earn Program. Over the past year and a half he has taught 12 classes and distributed over 100 re-deployed computers to underserved youth in the east end of Houston. Pete has also developed a new Learn and Earn Program with graduating seniors at Milby, Chavez and Austin High School. He will be starting our third class this summer. Through these two programs he has been able to increase our overall volunteer hours. This program is well received by the community and a welcome addition to the total program TFA offers.

Pete has managed our computer re-distribution program and completely overhauled the system. All reporting is now done on-line and in real time. He has also involved his student volunteers and our University of Houston Interns in the process. The most unique feature to the re-distribution program is the way Pete transfers knowledge to the recipients. The organization receiving the computers actually works with Pete and the volunteers in preparing their own equipment for their community technology center. In this way they have enough basic knowledge to keep their equipment up and running. To date Pete has re-distributed well over 300 computers and taught over 100 people in this program.

For the past two months Pete has put together an extensive summer youth program. (flyer available). We should be able to reach over 50 unique community youth ranging in age from new 7th graders to graduating seniors. The programs cover a variety of subjects. Pete has developed all the learning objectives for each course, developed a budget and schedule, and is in the process of recruiting students and volunteers. One of his key program partners is NASA. They have offered to put a second session under Pete’s leadership.

Pete is a real friend to the youth of our community. Through the Learn and Earn program Pete gets to know the youth, and then he takes it a step further. Pete spends additional time with these kids and becomes much more than just a teacher, he also becomes their friend and mentor. I believe Americorp Vista, through people like Pete, is making a real difference in the lives of these and other underserved youth. This extra effort has also been a key component in the development of an extensive summer youth program. Pete has been able to use his relationship with these kids to customize a program that really has the kids exited.

CTC Program Building

Ken Yu

As an Americorps*Vista with Technology For All, Ken Yu has been involved in capacity building with TFA’s Mission Milby Community Technology Center (MMCTC). Ken’s involvement has centered on the development of a full complement of CTC activities and programs in service to the community. One significant accomplishment that Ken had direct leadership responsibility for was the implementation of the tax assistance program at MMCTC. He also has been instrumental in organizing and starting new class offerings including a basic computer skills class in Spanish. During the month of February, MMCTC had 382 unique individuals participate in CTC programs and activities.

A key component of the Americorps*Vista project with TFA has been capacity building. Building good relationships with community members and clients of the CTC is an important part of this. He has developed several strong working relationships with a few clients. Another component of capacity building is the development of community volunteers to support the work of the CTC. Recently, Ken recruited a Spanish speaking community member to lead a new basic computer skills class in Spanish. This was a big accomplishment for the CTC and for Ken.

One of Ken’s capacity building activities has been the development and implementation of CTC data collection and entry. We are now able to compare CTC data for each month regarding class sessions and attendance within the CTC. Ken’s responsibility for this activity will help us with funders as we seek additional support for our work in the community.

CTC Program Building

Hilda Puente

Hilda Puente has been involved in capacity building with TFA’s Mission Milby Community Technology Center (MMCTC) and with our work with Houston area CTCs. Hilda’s involvement with MMCTC has centered around the development of the Learn and Earn a computer program with students from Milby High School. Students from Milby High School participating in MMCTC programs are able to “learn and earn” a computer. The program has allowed 40 students to receive computers for use in their homes.

Three classes of students (10-15 in each class) have participated in this program that was created in collaboration with Pete Rodriguez, another CTCVista with TFA. In addition, Hilda has been significantly involved in developing supportive relationships with the 180 plus community organizations with CTCs across Houston that we work with. This has been a significant capacity building activity.

Hilda’s major objective was to help strengthen relationships with TFA CTCs in the Houston area. Hilda is a person who identifies a task and works at that task until it is accomplished.

Her work always proved to be more than adequate, and she was always conscious of the need to complete her tasks in a timely manner. Near the end of the summer when she began taking a preparatory course for graduate school, Hilda seemed to lose focus on her TFA responsibilities. She enrolled in the class without her supervisor’s knowledge. A scheduling conflict with the class caused Hilda to miss the CTCNet conference.

Hilda Puente’s year of service with Technology For All was a positive and growing experience for both Hilda and TFA. She helped build and strengthen relationships with many of our CTCs, which accomplished her goals.

Transmission Project