The 12th Floor Lounge at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus was abuzz on June 20, as 45 underprivileged families from the Upper West Side of Manhattan gathered to receive free computer training, courtesy of Fordham’s RETC—Center for Professional Development.
The daylong event at the Lowenstein Center, which culminated with the families receiving computers to take home, was a collaboration between RETC; Per Scholas, a South Bronx nonprofit that uses technology to improve low-income communities; and Middle School 247, a dual-language school on West 92nd Street.
Volunteers from the Walt Disney Company and the students from Trevor Day School on West 88th Street were also in attendance.
New York City council member Gale A. Brewer, whose 6th district includes Fordham and M.S. 247, said that as the chair the city’s Committee on Technology in Government, the day’s issue was one about which she cares deeply.
“The great news about being here today is that the University put all of these pieces together: education, technology and content,” Brewer said. “The one university that has put all these pieces together is Fordham. So it is very exciting that Fordham and [M.S. 247] are here, because they are the model for the rest of the country.”
One of the participants, Wendy Fernandez, 34, of Inwood, had used the Internet, but only in a very basic capacity.
“I learned a lot, and it was easier than I thought,” Fernandez said. “It was a good experience because they taught me how to get directions. I never knew that by using Google Maps, if you enter an address you can actually see a picture of the area.”
Her daughter, Jessica Guzman, 13, a seventh grader at M.S. 247, said she was very excited that they would get a computer to take home. She planned to use it for homework and to play games. She also said she would like to teach her two younger siblings to use it.
RETC director Steven D’Agustino, Ph.D., noted that this was the second time RETC has held such an event. The first one, staged in February at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, attracted 125 families.
“This event is an opportunity for us to reach out to the community to let them know what services the University offers,” D’Agustino said. “It solidifies RETC as a real provider of technology services at the community level.”
Lesley Massiah, assistant vice president for government relations and state affairs at Fordham, said the event, which drew an estimated 110 attendees, was also a great way to show families from the local community what the fruits of technology and education could bring to them.
During lunch, she said she overheard several children admiring their surroundings as they gazed out of the lounge windows to the neighborhood below.
“I heard one kid say, ‘I really like this place,’” she said. “When I heard that, I knew we had done something special. We are mobilizing a new generation of kids, who are looking at Fordham University and saying, ‘If I do well and I study hard, this is a place for me, and I can see myself coming here.’”