LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The shift to digital continues every day, with more things shifting to online and intensifying the so-called “digital divide.” In Kentucky, 15% of Black, Hispanic or Latino people live without internet access, according to Broadband Now.
Wesley House Community Services in Louisville is just one nonprofit working to help meet people where they’re at.
Wesley House was founded in 1903. The nonprofit helps both children and adults with free learning opportunities. Their digital skills course is just the latest thing they’re working to bring attention to.
For Paul Barrera, the bilingual program coordinator at Wesley House, every day is a day to bridge the digital divide.
“It really called to me as to what I could be doing for this community,” Barrera said. “It really spoke to my heart, it really spoke to what I wanted to see myself doing.”
For two months, the New York native has been the bilingual program coordinator at Wesley House. Before that, he was at Metro Hall in the digital inclusion office. His former supervisor was the one who recommended he jump into nonprofit work.
“A lot of the folks that we help here are newly immigrated, people that probably never had a computer before. Or people who haven’t touched a computer in over 20 years because they’re retired, they wanna go back into the workforce or they just want to get in contact with their grandchildren,” said Barrera.
Barrera’s background expands beyond computer skills. He also teaches English as a second language here.
He said teaching digital hygiene often starts with the simple stuff for “Bridging the Digital Skills Gap” course.
“As they all sign in to Google. If they don’t have their email address, we sign one up. It’s a four-hour course, however it could be done in less if you have a little computer experience,” said Barrera.
Twice a month, people can drop in at their convenience to learn free, basic computer functions and online safety while earning a free computer at the end. President & CEO of Wesley House, Patricia Williams, said classes like this are a part of a half decade long partnership with Louisville Metro Government.
“It’s really recognizing that some of those skills are limited and less accessible for Black, Brown people and for low-income households,” said Williams.
“It feels like time here is well spent. I’m doing something that I know is going to make a difference in their lives,” said Barrera.
So whether it’s nobody or 20 people that show up to the free computer class, Barrera knows it’s important to be here when people need help.
Barrera has recently been presented recognition from The Office of Mayor Greg Fischer for his expanded computer access and education. Wesley House also hosts job placement, resume building, financial workshops and more at no costs through G.R.O.W. (Getting Ready For Opportunities & Work). Registration information can be found here.
The current hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. twice a month. Wesley House plans to expand the computer class in the new year with late afternoon hours to accommodate more people who work during the day. The next computer course will be held this Friday.