by Debra Johnson, Published November 11, 2013
YPSILANTI – Digital Inclusion, a computer refurbishment and technical training enterprise that benefits area youth and low-income residents, has opened a store in Sill Hall, in the College of Technology on Eastern Michigan University’s campus.
To celebrate the opening, a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on Monday, Nov. 25, from noon to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Digital Inclusion is operated by The B. Side, a youth-driven entrepreneurial and leadership organization that provides economic opportunities for Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County area youth.
Founded in 2007, The B. Side program seeks to reduce the technology gap in low-income areas of Washtenaw County by placing skilled youths back into the community. The program is housed in EMU’s Office of Academic Student-Learning.
“The majority of the youth that go through the Digital Inclusion program are from low-income households or are designated as at risk youth,” said Jack Bidlack, director of The Business Side of Youth at EMU.
EMU’s Academic Service-Learning programs incorporate a teaching and learning approach that seeks to integrate community service with research and education at the University and within the community.
The Digital Inclusion program is open to youth ages 13 to 21 years old who live in and around the Washtenaw County area. Participants receive 40 to 55 hours of computer hardware and software training and also receive a $150 store credit upon completion of the program.
“The Digital Inclusion program and store credit impact youths in two ways,” said Bidlack. “Not only does it provide them with access to a computer in their own home, but it also gives them the ability to practice the skills they have learned during the program.”
Digital Inclusion offers affordable technology services to low-income residents and the general public, but also sells refurbished computers and laptops at reasonable prices. For example, you can purchase a complete computer system, such as a Dell 620 desktop computer, for as low as $100. Qualified low-income residents will also receive free licensed Microsoft software with their purchase.
The Digital Inclusion store carries both desktops and laptop computers, with systems available in both PC and Mac. The store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Digital Inclusion was launched in 2008 by The B. Side and was initially funded through a grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation to pilot a computer refurbishment and training program for youth. The B. Side developed, tested and operated this pilot program for two and a half years before creating a sustainable model.
“The B. Side and Digital Inclusion programs have always had a strong partnership with EMU,” said Bidlack. “We are very excited that this new store will provide necessary equipment and support to the community, and to the university’s students, staff and faculty. It is our latest step to bridge the digital divide in the Ypsilanti area, and we are confident that it will be successful.”
For more information, visit the Digital Inclusion homepage.