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The Daily Tar Heel

Public housing residents receive free laptops

Laptops are part of an ongoing town project to promote digital literacy

“Just one computer for seven people is no good,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

Kamara was one of 23 students who recently graduated from the first four-week computer literacy class offered through a partnership between the town and the Kramden Institute, a Durham-based nonprofit that provides refurbished computers to those in need.

The graduation took place at the Chapel Hill Public library on July 9, and the program is expected to reach its maximum number of 60 participants over the rest of the summer and into the fall.

The participants were all given free laptops from the institute for completing the course, and a partnership between the town and AT&T is in the process of providing free internet access to eight of Chapel Hill’s 13 public housing neighborhoods.

“Learning basic computer skills allows you to take advantage of the many resources available to you and your families,” said Chapel Hill Deputy Town Manager Flo Miller, who spoke at the event. “The town is committed to continue to bring internet access to all 13 of the public housing neighborhoods.”

Miller said she recognized that it is not easy to take time away from family, work and other obligations to participate in this kind of course.

“You willingly took time away from your busy schedules to attend,” she said. “We know that it is not always easy to balance all the things that need your attention to do something like this.”

Free internet access has been set up so far at the Airport Gardens and Colony Woods West neighborhoods. Next, the service will be installed the Church/Caldwell, North Columbia and Pritchard Park neighborhoods. Eastwood, Rainbow Heights and South Estes will follow.

A survey conducted by the town in 2014 found that 96 percent of Chapel Hill public housing residents were interested in taking a computer training class.

After the graduation, the participants were shown around the library and learned how to get a library card if they didn’t already have one.

Susan Brown, the director of the library, also spoke at the graduation. She said people can accomplish a lot with a laptop computer, an ability to get on the internet and access to a public library.

“I just want to say welcome to the library,” she said. “This building can be intimidating. I hope that through this class and your visits here, you make this place yours.”

Nurul Khan was one of the public housing residents to receive a laptop. He said access to digital resources is important for both children and adults to succeed.

“This computer training is the driveway for our children,” he said. “This was a really short training, but the subject matter was really, really interesting. Without the internet, we are deaf and dumb.”

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