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Google Fiber’s Community Connection program provides gigabit internet service to nonprofit partners. Today, Shaleiah Fox, Chief Advancement Officer with Thinkery, an Austin-based STEAM learning experience for children, shares how the museum is using this program to power discovery and exploration for Austin’s kids. 


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Working at Thinkery is different from any job I’ve ever had. To start, we’re the most visited cultural institution here in Austin, Texas, and we’re dedicated to inspiring joyful learning for children. In and of itself working at Thinkery is an incredibly unique experience. But it’s really being a part of a team that works to make inspiring learning accessible to all children and families here in Central Texas that makes it a dream. 


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If you’ve visited our museum, you know you’re in for a day full of hands-on, thought provoking play and knowledge building. We’re a philanthropic hub for play-based STEAM learning, creativity, and imagination housed inside a 40,000 square foot facility in the heart of Austin. 



In 2013, the Austin Children's Museum rebranded to Thinkery and moved from downtown Austin to the Mueller area and became a Google Fiber Community Connection. We have a responsibility to make sure that all children in Central Texas have access to joyful learning experiences. Being a Community Connection allows us to reach more people who need to know about Thinkery and to create a more inclusive experience for them.


Inside our walls, being a Google Fiber Community Connection means keeping our kids connected to their learning pursuits. An example of this is Our Stop Motion Animation Exhibit, which allows kids to come in and create their own movies. Once they do, they can upload and send those videos to themselves or family to showcase what they’ve created. Everything we do here at Thinkery is designed so that a lifelong learning connection doesn’t stop when you leave our museum doors. In a way, our Stop Motion Animation exhibit is a physical manifestation of the way in which we keep that promise — and it’s powered by the internet. 


At the end of the day, seeing the smile on a kid’s face when they learn something new or have a new experience makes every piece of effort we put into our programming just that much more worth it. We’re incredibly proud of the work we do for our Central Texas community. 


Posted by Shaleiah Fox, Chief Advancement Officer, Thinkery 


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“I’m ready to conquer it all. This is my stepping stone and I’m ready to do what’s needed to become successful.” That’s how Brionna Watters, a single mother of two, describes her outlook on life since recently becoming a resident of Foundation Communities through the organization’s Children’s HOME Initiative (CHI) for families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.


The mission of Foundation Communities is “creating housing where families succeed.” That’s what the Austin, Texas, based nonprofit has been doing since it was founded in 1990. And thanks to decades of steady growth, it now owns and manages 26 affordable apartment communities in Austin and North Texas—19 for families and seven for single adults. Seven more affordable communities are currently in the construction or planning stages. When the construction is complete, Foundation Communities will be home to more than 8,000 people, many of whom will have come directly out of homelessness.

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CHI client Brionna Watters and case manager James Ortiz pose with Brionna’s new laptop at a Foundation Communities property. 


But affordable housing is just part of the story. Over the years, Foundation Communities has also expanded its portfolio of supportive services for its residents and lower-income Central Texans. This includes educational programs like: onsite Learning Centers that provide afterschool and summer enrichment for children and higher education opportunities; financial stability programs such as free tax preparation, affordable health insurance enrollment and financial coaching; and health initiatives such as free healthy food pantries and exercise programs. All these opportunities are made possible because of the power and reliability of digital connectivity. 


“We don’t want to just provide a cheap apartment,” said Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau. “We want to provide great communities where people are proud of where they live and have opportunities right at their doorstep.” 


Foundation Communities resident Robert Rangel enjoys a book and his support animal Tony at a Foundation Communities property


As a part of that holistic support model, Brionna Watters’ family is one of those receiving a free computer from Foundation Communities which was made possible through a grant from Google Fiber, as a part of its digital inclusion efforts to increase communication and learning opportunities for lower-income Americans. Watters says for her family, the timing couldn’t be better. “I plan on going to college for real estate,” said Watters. “So, I was actually going to have to purchase a laptop.”


Each resident at Foundation Communities’ M Station Apartments also has access to high-speed internet service provided byGoogle Fiber to ensure they have internet connectivity to achieve their online goals.


James Ortiz knows firsthand how transformative Foundation Communities’ affordable housing + supportive services model can be — and how vital it is to have access to programs and resources online. His parents divorced when he was nine years old which made the family’s economic hardships even worse. Ortiz says it was very fortunate that his mother was able to get herself, him and his sister into a Foundation Communities apartment, which provided much needed stability. After graduating from college, Ortiz immediately sought employment with Foundation Communities. Now, he works as a case manager in the CHI program helping families like his overcome their struggles. 


“In this role, I have been able to work directly with a number of families, in a collaborative process that fosters individual and family growth,” said Ortiz. While this role has its challenges, the rewards I garner from the work are immeasurable.”


You can learn more about Foundation Communities and its Children’s HOME Initiative at https://foundcom.org/housing/at-risk-homeless-families/.


Posted by Norris Deajon, Communications and Marketing Manager for Foundation Communities

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Today, we're featuring a guest blog post from Tom Esselman, Director of one of our amazing Kansas City community partners, PCs for People. Google Fiber works with this organization in several of our cities and have recently launched a new project in KC to help get more people online.

     

PCs for People Kansas City works to make digital equity a reality by getting low-cost quality computers, internet and digital literacy training into the homes of individuals, families and nonprofits with low income. Google Fiber works with this dedicated organization to help more Kansas Citians access quality internet in their homes.


One of the biggest things the pandemic made even more imperative is that access to the internet and functioning devices is critical to success. Without digital access, it’s nearly impossible for people to work remotely, apply for jobs or virtually meet a healthcare provider. For children, lack of internet and device access means they could be left behind in school.


Dating back to 2008, and to play a small part in helping close the digital divide across the country, we created PCs for People, which focuses on providing equitable access to functioning devices. We do this through refurbishing previously used (typically only two to three years old) computers and devices donated by large organizations and individuals. Then, these refurbished devices are sold at deeply discounted prices to individuals who otherwise would not have access to this technology.


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Of course, we knew that having a device only gets you so far if you don’t have access to fast, reliable internet — an issue facing more than 163 million individuals across the U.S., according to Pew Charitable Trusts. In Kansas City, we were thrilled to work with Google Fiber to provide Kansas Citians with access to reliable internet. 


Most recently, our collaboration with Google Fiber has facilitated bringing fiber internet to four affordable housing communities in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Through this project, residents get access to high-speed fiber internet for $15 per month. Now, three of these communities - Pemberton Park, Linwood Gardens and Posada Del Sol - are fully online, and we’ve already seen incredible results for those residents.



“I got my first computer from PCs for People,” said Rose Stigger, Pemberton Park for GrandFamilies manager and resident. “I was the first resident at Pemberton Park, brought up my granddaughters here, and now as I raise my great-grandson here I was the first resident to receive this high speed internet.”


As we continue to expand access to more communities, we’ve learned that building trust with residents is critical to ensuring people make use of this access. In addition to providing quality devices and reliable internet, PCs for People offers digital literacy training to ensure folks make the most of this technology. These services will save residents money, allowing them to allocate those funds to other important needs.


“Up until a few months ago, I didn’t have internet at home,” said Rose. “This internet not only helps my grandson with projects that will surely come up for school but also makes my life easier, too.”


Posted by Tom Esselman, Director, PCs for People Kansas City

 


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This summer, Google Fiber celebrates the 10th anniversary of opening sign-ups in our first market, my hometown of Kansas City. The first few months after launch were intense and rewarding, humbling and inspiring. One of the greatest takeaways from that period - and demonstrated countless more times over the years - is that the most effective digital equity work happens collaboratively, when people who know their communities best are empowered to make a difference. 


The Digital Inclusion Fellowship, a program we co-founded with NTEN,  is one way that we’ve demonstrated the impact of this type of collaboration. Since 2015, 78 digital literacy leaders, advocates and practitioners from nonprofit organizations and municipal agencies across the country have been sponsored by Google Fiber. Through training and planning support that is delivered to these cohorts, these changemakers have created and managed projects ranging from improving access to the internet to multi-generational digital literacy initiatives. 


Because I have seen firsthand the impact this program can have on communities, it is my privilege to welcome the eighth cohort of Digital Inclusion Fellows, who are dedicated to broadening digital equity in their communities over the next year. This year’s Google Fiber sponsored fellows for 2022 include:


Atlanta, GA  Stacy Rozier, Goodwill of North Georgia

Austin, TX  Dan Reddi, Austin Public Library

Charlotte, NC  Natali Betancur, The Center for Digital Equity, and Chantez Neymoss, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Kansas City, MO  Erika Garcia Reyes, Revolución Educativa

Provo, UT  Baylee Swanson, United Way of Utah County

Salt Lake County, UT  Hoang Ha, Spy Hop Productions, and Jaleen Johnson, Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN)/Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC)

San Antonio, TX  Dallana Camargo, Empower House SA


As Fellow Chantez Neymoss said, “Digital inclusion is important to me because of how transformational it can be in someone’s life. Expanding this access opens up new opportunities for employment, small businesses, connecting with family, education, and more. Digital skills and tools should be an opportunity for expansion, not a barrier.”


During the fellowship and beyond, we know this commitment to collaboration will open up new opportunities with the hope that it will bring their communities closer to meeting their larger social, economic and civic needs. We wish this new cohort great success!


Posted by Rachel Merlo, Head of Government and Community Affairs - Central Region | Orange County, CA


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Google Fiber works with organizations across the country to help address digital equity issues in our communities. We love to share their stories on the Google Fiber blog and hear about the impact of their amazing work from the people they serve. 

 

About the program:


Digi-Bridge and Google Fiber have teamed up to launch free virtual STEAM Lab programs designed to engage underserved 4th through 8th graders in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties (including Charlotte and Concord) in a hands-on exploration of technology in the arts, coding, gaming and design engineering.


STEAM Lab arrived after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported a significant decrease in Science EOG scores in 5th and 8th grade from 2019 to 2021. STEAM Lab provides an engaging learning experience hands-on, yet virtual experience for partner school students by pairing personal learning kits of materials with virtual instruction led by the student's teachers. This additional learning time for students is an effort to promote academic exploration and increased testing scores.


Today, we’re spotlighting a STEAM Lab student, I.T., who has been participating in two courses with Digi-Bridge’s Virtual STEAM Lab — the Design Engineering Process, where students learn the fundamentals of building using geometric concepts, and Art & Tech, where students learn about foundational graphic design skills, such as pixel art and stop-motion animation. Check out his experience below!  

 

Meet I.T.:

 

 

Hello, My name is Isaiah “I.T.” Twyman and I am a 5th grade student at Druid Hills Academy in Digi-Bridge’s Virtual STEAM Lab sponsored by Google Fiber. I’m 11 years old and enjoy playing video games, coding and soccer after school. 

I live off in Northwest Charlotte. I like it, but I really like being near my grandparents in Mallard Creek. My grandfather lives in a house and teaches me a lot of hands-on things, like how to plug tires, how to work with circuits and how to stop and enjoy life! We love going on walks. Also, during the program he helped with my circuit greeting card project. 

Those are all the things that I like. Also, if you didn’t know, my dream is to recreate Jurassic Park! STEAM Lab is cool because I like creating new stuff all the time! For example, a zip line or playing with electric circuits or anything related to video games. 

I really enjoyed the Pixel Art. I'm into coding and Digi-Bridge made it easy to understand. I love trying to code and make video games. I actually like to create games in my free time!

Here’s what a regular morning in Virtual STEAM Lab looks like for me:

 

6:00- I brush my teeth and wash my face. If I have time, I play my game and just chill out. 

8:00-8:45- I will eat a breakfast that I can make, like a Cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. 

8:45- Set-up for my classroom in the kitchen. We sit separately from my sister. 

9:00- I greet my teachers Ms. Nicole and Mr. Moats. Then, we start off by sharing our emotions so the teacher knows how we are doing. 

9:15- Then Ms. Nicole tells us that we will get started. They sometimes show us a video and tell us what to do

10:00- Show the teacher what we did. We will code on SCRATCH if we finish early. 

11:00- Start cleaning up after finishing. We send a picture to Ms. Nicole and then we can eat part of the project if it’s edible! 

 

Thank you for reading as I shared my morning as a DIGI-Bridge Virtual STEAM student. Have a good day! 

 

Posted by Isaiah “I.T.” Twyman, 5th grade student at Druid Hills Academy





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Google Fiber is proud to host guest blogger Stephanie Espy, the author of STEM Gems and the founder of the conference of the same name. As a chemical engineer, Stephanie understands the challenges facing women in science and technology. As a sponsor of this year’s conference, Google Fiber continues to look for new ways to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM.


Think back to your preteen/teen self. What were your career interests, and why? What inspired you? Who inspired you? Was it a teacher or family member? Was it a summer camp experience? Was it something you saw in a movie or tv show or read in a book or magazine?

Women remain underrepresented in STEM fields. Cybersecurity, engineering, computing, data science, and physical sciences are just a few examples of careers where women represent less than a quarter of jobs, in some areas even single digit percentages. If we want to see more girls choosing STEM, it is our responsibility to inspire them early and often.

The STEM Gems movement is centered on girls and was designed based on my life experiences. As a girl who was stimulated by math and science, I wish I had an organization like STEM Gems to inspire my exploration of STEM careers, introduce me to women in STEM role models, and demonstrate how a STEM career can make a difference in the world and help people. 

I started this movement by writing the STEM Gems book, and our programming now includes the STEM Gems Club, Summit, summer camp, and social media campaign. Each component exposes and supports girls with the goal of expanding their STEM fluency and helping them break through stereotypes and build confidence.  

All too often, girls are not exposed to STEM careers or encouraged to develop the skills necessary to pursue STEM careers. STEM Gems places them at the center of what is possible. I know how critical it is to help girls create their unique STEM footprint as I was able to persist throughout middle and high school, study chemical engineering at MIT and UC Berkeley, and become one of the 3% of underrepresented women of color to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The vision for STEM Gems is to strengthen the pipeline and help to provide the support and structure necessary for girls to see themselves as researchers, innovators, creators, and problem solvers. 

The STEM Gems Summit: Women Empowering Girls is one way in which girls are inspired to choose STEM careers. The Summit brings together girls and young women, parents, educators, and mentors and introduces them to professional women in a diversity of STEM careers underrepresented by women. The Summit opens with each speaker doing a short “pitch” of their respective STEM career to attendees. The women then share what inspired them to choose their STEM career, their journey to where they are now, how they make a difference in the world using STEM, and advice for girls to create their unique STEM footprint in the world.



The 2022 STEM Gems Summit: Women Empowering Girls presented by AWS is co-sponsored by Google Fiber. Our sponsors have enabled us to increase our impact and dream big, reaching girls, parents, and educators across the country in both rural and urban cities. This year’s Summit will be held virtually on Saturday, March 19 at 11am EST / 8am PST. All are encouraged to attend and be inspired by an amazing group of women using STEM to better the world! Register today! (And you can follow STEM Gems on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.)

Posted by Stephanie Espy, author of STEM Gems, founder of STEM Gems and MathSP





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Google Fiber works with incredible partners across the country working to make digital equity a reality in our communities. Back in 2019, we shared the innovative work of Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) in San Antonio, TX, and now we’re thrilled to welcome Victoria Becker, Communications and Engagement Associate, to provide an update on those efforts through the pandemic and beyond. LWB US is a non-profit organization that delivers access to information, education, and cultural resources. From parks in Baltimore to laundromats in San Antonio, LWB US designs innovative tools and programs that meet people where they are with the resources they need most. 


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Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) has been working to promote access to information in underserved communities across the country since 2015. Fundamental to our work is designing and implementing innovative programs that reimagine libraries, often by transforming nontraditional spaces into hubs for community learning and engagement. With this mission in mind, we took our work to the laundromat, prompting the birth of the Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI).

Why laundromats? The average laundromat user has an income of $28,000; 1 in 4 individuals in this income bracket do not have access to broadband internet. By partnering with local libraries and organizations, LWB US brings not only books, computers, and internet connection directly to laundromats, but also digital skills trainings and curated resources that promote literacy, digital access, health education, legal information, and other issues. In doing this, LWB US could ensure that community members had easy access to critical resources, all while doing their weekly wash.

In March 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we completely reimagined our work and shifted gears in response to swiftly growing needs. We designed and implemented the ConnectED Technology Kit program: an initiative to provide our constituents with a backpack equipped with a laptop, mobile hotspot, and a curated educational resource packet to be used at home. Last year, LWB US distributed over 120 kits to families in San Antonio outside Wash and Learn Initiative laundromats, including our newest WALI laundromat Laundry Rey’s.



We’re building on the work we did last year outside by bringing programming back inside. LWB US recently reinstalled the bookshelf at Laundry Rey’s, the first hint of WALI reinstall. With the support of Google Fiber, we are able to safely reimplement programming in our San Antonio WALI laundromats to continue to serve our community. Check out the video below see this incredible program up close and hear from our staff and stakeholders:

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For more information about WALI or LWB in San Antonio, contact Lisa Alvarenga, our San Antonio Project Coordinator.

Posted by Victoria Becker, Communications and Engagement Associate, Libraries without Borders - US.





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When I joined the very first cohort of Google Fiber Digital Inclusion Fellows back in 2015, I wanted to figure out how to make broadband internet more accessible for communities like the one I grew up in.

I was raised in the Rio Grande Valley, along the US-Mexico border, where the internet is often inaccessible, either because broadband service isn’t offered or it is too expensive. In fact, many cities in the Valley (including Harlingen, Pharr and Brownsville) still rank among the worst connected communities in the country. When we finally got the internet at home, it made a world of difference for me and my family. Suddenly, I could fill out college applications at home, I could research things and places that I had never heard of and - most importantly — I could begin the long process of building up digital skills that would last me a lifetime, and continue to play a central role in my work as a Community Impact Manager at Google Fiber today

When I applied to the program six years ago, I could not have imagined the impact that the Digital Inclusion Fellowship would have in the coming years. Nor could I have imagined how critical and important the work of digital navigators would become. Even before the pandemic, the demand for internet speed and capacity was growing, and there are still at least 21 million Americans without broadband internet at home (and this number may be much higher). And while 2021 promises to be a banner year for broadband internet funding, breaking down barriers to digital equity will mean getting folks on the ground to create and implement robust digital inclusion programs. 

That’s why I’m extremely proud to welcome the 7th cohort of Digital Inclusion Fellows — Google Fiber co-founded this program with NTEN to grow the community of digital literacy leaders, advocates and practitioners across the country. Since 2015, we’ve sponsored 75 Fellows across the country, working with local nonprofit organizations and institutions to create and manage digital inclusion programs. These programs range from improving access to the internet to multi-generational digital literacy initiatives. 

Here’s the next generation of change makers who are devoting the next year to broadening digital equity in their communities:























We’re looking forward to watching these Fellows in action and supporting their critical work, as they drive digital equity in their communities. To learn more about the fellows and keep up with the latest on Google Fiber, follow our Twitter and Facebook feeds!

Posted by Daniel Lucio, Community Impact Manager








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Google Fiber has always focused on helping communities take on the very real digital equity challenges they grapple with every day. We’ve been lucky to partner with some incredible organizations over the past decade, working to make each of our Fiber cities more digitally inclusive places. The past year has magnified the importance of these efforts, with the pandemic and the related changes to our daily lives having an outsized impact on disadvantaged communities.  



PCs for the People in Kansas City



As Google Fiber worked to adapt to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized many of our local non-profit partners, and the people they serve, were working overtime to do the same. So we adjusted our approach over the last year to help those organizations serve their communities’ most immediate needs, whether that was internet access for learning or work, devices to get online, unemployment, or food insecurity

Given the enormous challenges of 2020, Google Fiber increased our community impact investments across the country. As we do every year, we recently surveyed our non-profit partners about their experience and their impact. We’re so inspired by what they were able to achieve in the face of the incredible adversity during 2020:

  • Over 250,000 people participated in programming funded by Google Fiber 
  • Even with the challenges of the pandemic, partners provided 124,000 hours of digital literacy training both virtually and in person, and prepared more than 3,000 new volunteer trainers to pay this work forward
  • Partners distributed over 8,500 devices to help people get online
  • More than 700 job seekers gained employment through funded programming
  • Entrepreneurship programs led to 43 new businesses
  • More than 6,000 people connected new internet service in their homes




Libraries without Borders in San Antonio



Additionally, we supported organizations focused on racial justice and equity at a new level this year to help many of our communities bridge not just the digital divide, but the other issues that divide our communities. A little bit more about who our partners serve:

  • 92% work with underrepresented groups
  • 79% work with children or seniors
  • 52% work with the LGBTQ+ community
  • 51% work with individuals with disabilities
  • 36% work with veterans
  • 31% work with previously incarcerated individuals



Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas



Every day, these groups are making change happen in our communities, creating a more equitable, just, and connected place that will create a lasting and exponential difference to our cities and our world. Thank you to all our partners! 



Posted by Rachel Merlo, Government & Community Affairs Manager, Kansas City



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Since the first cohort of NTEN’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship in 2015, Google Fiber has supported this innovative program which supports nonprofit professionals with deep connections to digitally distressed communities in their efforts to launch or expand digital inclusion  programs. As a former fellow with Austin Free-Net, I’ve seen firsthand the impact that a focused staff member can have on connecting more people to the skills and resources people need to navigate our digital world. 

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The pandemic has emphasized the necessity of access to fast, reliable internet. Organizations that once considered digital equity and literacy tangential to their mission now find it essential to helping the communities they serve. 

Stephanie De Leon, our Digital Inclusion Fellow with AVANCE-Austin, shared, “I can proudly say that all 240 families served in the AVANCE-Austin Parent-Child Education Program received brand new tablets with internet connectivity and resources plus 1-on-1 training on how to use them to help close the gap in digital inequity.”

Over the past six years, Google Fiber has funded 59 fellows across the country, and these extraordinary individuals and organizations are making a huge difference in the everyday lives of their constituents. 

Kayla Bradshaw, a fellow with the United Way of Utah County in Provo, Utah, said: “Typically, we hold in-person trainings for our volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program. Most of our volunteers are elderly and do not want to meet in person. We developed an online training distributed through YouTube to train all volunteers. The volunteers then receive technical support through the tax season as they assist low-income families in filing their taxes.”

Think a staff member in your organization could benefit from being a Digital Inclusion Fellow? Applications are open now for the next cohort (lucky number 7!). We hope you’ll consider joining the group, or pass this on to an organization that needs their own fellow. 

Posted by Daniel Lucio, Community Impact Manager





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It’s been nearly a year since many businesses and schools began working from home because of the COVID pandemic. And while many of us have learned new ways to use technology and the internet to keep in touch (while staying apart), many families are still facing challenges accessing the resources and tools they need to work or study online. Digital inclusion is key to creating a more equitable world, and Google Fiber continues to work with organizations across the country to address this challenge.

Since 2016, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s (NDIA) has hosted the Net Inclusion Conference annually, bringing together digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, businesses, and policymakers to share their knowledge and learn from one another. This conference has been a consistent catalyst for innovation and best practices across the digital inclusion community, and Google Fiber is proud to support Net Inclusion again this year. This time the conference will feature a new virtual format over a series of weeks rather than concentrated into just a few days, which will allow even more people to participate.

The 2021 Net Inclusion Conference series includes eight one-hour webinars, every Wednesday from April 7th through May 26th. These webinars are open to any and all advocates, policy makers, academics and boots-on-the-ground folks who want to learn more and help expand the conversation around digital inclusion. We hope some of you’ll join us! If you are interested, register here.

Posted by Daniel Lucio, Community Impact Manager





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At Google Fiber, we’re always excited to see how our customers put our gigabit internet to work for them. Throughout 2021 we’ll be featuring customers from across the country who represent the amazing endeavors of those who see the opportunity of the internet and are using it every day to make the world better, more interesting, kinder, and more just. 

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“Why can’t we harness the marketplace to prompt thoughtfulness and push back the tide of social injustice in America?”

This is the problem I saw and my purposeful lifestyle company Civic Saint is a part of the solution. I designed my inaugural collection of accessories and apparel to uplift those advancing the Black Lives Matter, Equal Rights, and Voter Rights movements. Customers’ purchases also perpetuate the push for equity in America through donations to appropriate organizations. 

The idea for Civic Saint came to me while I was completing treatment for head and neck cancer at the University of Kansas Medical Center in January of 2020, but it all came to a head during this summer’s unrest. As a Black, gay man, I was tired of waiting for change to come; and it became clear to me that I was not alone.

My aspiration for Civic Saint is to not only create a company that promotes an affirming, inclusive society through thoughtful products and partnerships, but also one that prompts reflection and conversation about each of the movements our inaugural collection honors. Additionally, Civic Saint is a social enterprise that advances systemic change by donating a portion of its profits to organizations that fight for racial and social equity, including The Equal Justice Initiative, The Bail Project, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Troost Market Collective. Civic Saint’s mission and impact align with principles my late parents, Cecil and Goldie, instilled in me and demonstrated throughout their lifetimes as public servants and individuals. 

In creating my products, I’m also partnering with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color for my core services from Black, female-owned She Prints It in Atlanta, Georgia to Black, nonbinary Kansas City creative Fawn Lies to woman-owned AlphaGraphics as well as allies like Nick Ward-Bopp who co-founded Maker Village. The path to change includes being intentional in who you choose to do business with regardless of the size of your business — asking whether your choices reinforce economic disenfranchisement or uplift a multifaceted cadre of service providers and people.

From inception, Google Fiber and Google Business Solutions have underpinned the construction of my dream to start a business. From Google Fiber gigabit internet service to domain and email hosting to designing on my Google Pixelbook to payment processing, and so much more. Google’s suite of products and services have allowed me to establish a meaningful, professional company about which I can be proud and to do it quickly.

I believe right now has the potential to be as pivotal a time as the 1964 Freedom Summer, but only if we can drop the divides and remember our shared humanity and equal rights. In short, the call to do more to create a just, equitable society is upon all of us and we must answer it now.

To learn more about Civic Saint and shop our continually expanding collection, visit www.CivicSaint.com or follow us @CivicSaint on Instagram and Facebook.

Posted by Godfrey Riddle, Founder & President of Civic Saint






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Many students have been navigating virtual learning since last spring. Google Fiber has partnered with organizations and school districts in our cities to help make it easier for students and their families to connect and continue their learning journeys, whatever form that may take. Today, we’re excited to share a guest post from Malena Juarez, a senior at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, who attends the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy Virtual Learning Program. The Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy is one of our Google Fiber Community Connections, which provides gigabit internet to the organization at no cost.




When I first came to the Academy, I was amazed by the sight of the facility and the huge softball field and baseball fields. It was a dream come true. To me, the Urban Youth Academy is a place of opportunity and growth. It has now become my second home. The UYA will forever have impacted my life positively, giving me a place to grow as a softball player and as a person in my community. The wonderful people I’ve met there have always been such great role models, who only wanted to see me succeed. 

I started playing softball when I was 10 years old, but had no idea what softball really was. But, as the years went by, softball then became my life. Moving to Lincoln Prep, I found out there was no team. It was always hard not being able to play the sport you love going into high school. During my junior year, the UYA helped tremendously by allowing our softball team to use their field and equipment to practice and play our games. I was finally able to play the game I love at the place I love. It meant so much to me and was very influential to me; I wanted to give back to my community just as the UYA did. 

Being a senior during this very interesting year of 2020 has been very difficult for me. As the oldest of three kids at home trying to manage everything being virtual, I felt very overwhelmed from making sure lunch was made at a certain time and homework was being done, to answering what felt was a million questions about school from my sisters and brothers. I always believed my senior year was going to be very stress-free, but with our current situation, it has been the exact opposite. 

Just as I was feeling it was all too much, I received a text message explaining what seemed to be a cool program —  the Virtual Learning Program at the UYA. The program currently has 50 high school students enrolled from 17 different schools in the KC area. It runs Monday-Friday, usually from 7 am-4 pm which allows us to complete our schoolwork and participate in baseball and softball workouts each day. 

At first, I thought it probably wouldn’t work out for me to attend, because where would my younger siblings go? That’s when I had a conversation with the Director of the Virtual Learning Program explaining the circumstances. Thankfully, they worked with me, and now my younger brother attends the program as well. So now, there is no worry about missing school to make lunch, and I’m only answering one question here and there! The only focus I have is school, and it is easier to do the best that I can. 

Coming to the UYA for the Virtual Program, Google Fiber’s high speed internet has been a tremendous help to me and my siblings. We are now able to go throughout the day with no problems with our connection. We can now focus on our school work.. It means a lot and has taken a great deal of stress off our shoulders. 

I just wanted to say a great big thank you to the Urban Youth Academy, the Virtual Program, and Google Fiber for being a great help to me. It has made such a huge impact on me and others. You have made me feel important and valued, and I could not thank you enough. 

Posted by Malena Juarez, Senior at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy 








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Charlotte-based muralist Rosalia Torres-Weiner believes art can sustain us during difficult times. As a self-titled “Artivist,”  Rosalia seeks to find creative ways to use art to bring people together, advance justice and equity, and inspire more good in the world.

In October, Rosalia created her response to COVID-19 called “Art Essentials,” which is part scavenger hunt, part public art project and part emergency relief. Rosalia created and hung 100 pieces of her original art in public places like bus stops, laundromats, apartment complexes throughout Charlotte’s Latinx neighborhoods. Folks who found the art discovered another surprise: a message on the back letting them know the painting also served as a voucher for a bag of essential items, including hand soap, hand sanitizer, face masks, and a $50 grocery card at local Compare Foods grocery store….and they get to keep the art!

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After a few weeks, all of the art has been collected and 89 of the Art Essentials bags have been redeemed. The rest of the bags of supplies have been donated to the families at Charlotte Bilingual Preschool. Families who discovered the art were thrilled to get both an original painting and assistance with grocery basics at a time when inspiration and help are needed most.

Google Fiber is proud to support Art Essentials, along with a HUG micro-grant from Charlotte is Creative and support from Compare Foods. We continue to partner with local organizations focused on connecting our communities for good.

Posted by Jess George, Government & Community Affairs Manager, North Carolina





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