Oak Hill Receives Funds to Help Bridge Digital Divide

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Oak Hill Collaborative was awarded $25,000 on Friday to help support its effort to bridge the digital divide in the Mahoning Valley.

Patrick V. Kerrigan, executive director of Oak Hill, said in about 10 years the organization’s focus has evolved.

Although the area has the ability to provide one-gigabyte high-speed internet, not everyone is taking advantage of it, Kerrigan said. One of the reasons is affordability, but he said another is a lack of understanding about how much the internet can enhance people’s lives.

From downloading Bible apps for seniors, creating social media sites for businesses or helping those interested in 3D printing and music, Oak Hill provides classes and tech support to help people understand how computers and the internet can play a role.

“Our bread and butter is to teach the classes. That’s what we do,” Kerrigan said, adding they also weigh in whenever digital connectivity issues are being considered. “We consider ourselves digital champions.”

Refurbished laptops can be purchased for $100 or earned by taking five one-day computer classes. While the programs started at Oak Hill, not all the classes are being held there now. The Digital Advantage Initiative program is expanding its reach into other areas.

Currently, satellite class locations are at TyiYOUnity in Warren, Thrive 10:10 in Girard and OCCHA in Youngstown. And additional locations will be added in Springfield Township, Campbell, Coitsville, Smith Township, Sebring and Jackson Milton. A potential site in Ashtabula County is also being considered.

Although Oak Hill still offers plans to access the internet, it now focuses more on piquing interest in digital technology and making certain people know how to use it. From introductory classes to online safety and responsible use of AI, instructors are helping to make the benefits of technology available to more people.

The funds it received Friday – $10,000 from the Community Foundation’s general fund and $15,000 through the Warren Community Impact Fund – will help cover the cost of expanded services, including new class locations and laptops for the classes.

“We’re always excited to support programs that help bring much needed services into communities that are sometimes left by the wayside,” said Casey Krell, president of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. “We know technology is such an important part of having a thriving community that anytime we’re able to support a program like the Digital Resource Center that Oak Hill Collaborative is doing, we’re happy to do it. And we look forward to seeing what they can accomplish with this funding.”

Pictured at top: Patrick V. Kerrigan, executive director of the Oak Hill Collaborative.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.