Success story: The Elizondo family
The Capitol Hill Community Technology Center opened in the fall of 2000 with a mission to provide access to education through computers and technology for all low-income individuals living within the Capitol Hill area. Capitol Hill, a predominately Hispanic community in south Oklahoma City, is located within a federal government Empowerment Zone. A significant percentage of the residents in this area have an annual income that is at or below the poverty level, nearly one quarter of the Hispanic residents have not received their high school diplomas, and 90 percent of the students are eligible for reduced or free lunches.
The Capitol Hill Community Technology Center is the only bilingual computer center in the state of Oklahoma. However, in order to advance the educational pursuits and career goals of its clients, as well as raise the standard of living of these individuals, it is essential to assist the clients in achieving a sufficient level of English language proficiency.
The Capitol Hill Community Technology Center was formed as a result of a three-year $442,942 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In the past two years, enrollments in courses such as Introduction to Computers, Windows Basic Computer Skills, Microsoft Word, and Basic Internet are over 6,000. As part of the partnership with the Oklahoma Public School System, the Center is housed within the area elementary school. Children in kindergarten through sixth grade also take advantage of the Center throughout the day and after school. Children have made over 3,000 visits to the Center for school projects, computer skill building games, and Internet access to appropriate educational sites. Other programs provided by the Center include e-commerce seminars and a senior citizens’ program. Partnerships have been formed with numerous organizations, including public libraries, Oasis, and Even Start (an organization primarily for mothers with school-age children).
During the Center’s third year, it was determined more could be done to fulfill the goals that were originally set. As part of a SBC Excelerator grant in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges, the “From Information Technology Training to Work” program was created. The purpose of this program is to serve participants with the potential to excel in using basic technology and to improve their employability skills to better their life. The program is provided in a six-week accelerated format in which participants go through 90 hours of training consisting of basic computer skills, English as a Second Language classes, and job readiness skills (resume writing, interviewing skills, etc). Fourteen students started the program in the fall of 2002. Thirteen of the students completed the requirements. Eight were placed in jobs and two are continuing their education. All students who successfully completed the program received a $225 stipend. The next group of students will begin the program in February 2003. For the 13 openings in the February 2003 program, 24 have applied.
The Capitol Hill Community Technology Center has affected hundreds of people. Whether participants were learning how to use a computer, learning English as a Second Language, navigating the Internet, or playing a computer game, the Center has changed their lives because they now have a better opportunity in today’s job market.
One such success story is the Elizondo family – Mr. & Mrs. Elizondo and their two children ages 14 and 6 years old. Like many others using the Center to build a better future for their family, the Elizondo’s emigrated from the state of Coahuila in Mexico. The Elizondo family first heard of the Center through a local radio advertisement that broadcasts in Spanish. Mrs. Elizondo then enrolled in an evening Basic Computer I class the spring of 2001. A few weeks later, her children were completing their homework at the Center while she attended classes. Mr. Elizondo followed them soon after. By the fourth course, Mrs. Elizondo was navigating the Internet like a professional and soon started her own Mary Kay business. Recently, as a reward for her sales efforts, she received her first “pink” car from Mary Kay. Mr. Elizondo has been promoted at Exel Mechanical, Inc., and works with Hispanic customers for the company. The two children still go to the Center about twice a week. Their fourteen year old son works on his homework and researches the Internet about dragons. Their six year old daughter is now in the first grade and has impressed her teacher by showing her how to open the Internet and load a children’s game site.
Future plans for the Capitol Hill Community Technology Center include expanding the English as a Second Language and citizenship programs and becoming self-sustaining through partnerships with businesses, organizations, and foundations.