In celebrating Black History month, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) also celebrates the success of all of our Participants. When AFJ created our online and onsite HIRE UP workshops in 2020, the first class we implemented was Digital Literacy. We recognized that Digital Literacy promotes academic and career advancement. AFJ’s Digital Literacy class offers certification for more than 70 levels of training.
Since our launch in summer 2020, 88 AFJ Participants have taken our online self-paced and group classes, with 19 Participants attaining a total of 85 certifications. The workload is not easy, which is why in addition to equipping our Participants with technology to access the modules, we also pair each Participant with a volunteer tutor to help them navigate through the modules. On average, a Participant takes a certification test at least three times before passing.
Soon after launching self-paced individual studies, AFJ Court Advocates, Elsie Flores and Brian Stanley developed a weekly online group class to help Participants succeed.
Elsie notes, "Most of our kids suffer from some type of trauma so we have to build their confidence as well as their skills. I don't care if they make 15 mistakes. We teach them to never give up, and get to where they need to be."
Brian spoke on the urgency of providing digital literacy: “In an increasingly technological world, digital literacy becomes a social justice issue, an issue of equal opportunity.”
Recently, the AFJ court advocate team decided to make Digital Literacy mandatory for every court-involved and at-risk Participant in our program. This has resulted in at least one certification earned each week in 2022 as of early February.
The internet is full of studies that show the correlation between Digital Literacy and advancing into higher education and employment. Our own numbers in 2021 show a similar correlation between Participants who take HIRE UP classes and their employment and training: 22% of those employed were digital literacy students; 15% were OSHA students; 52% were in job readiness workshops; 15% were hired by AFJ’s Corporate Partners.
With 85 total certifications earned to date, David and Anastacia are among our stars! Combined they have received 14 certifications and are both using their skills in their education and employment. Anastacia is currently taking classes at BMCC after receiving her high school diploma in 2020 and David started his own business during the pandemic doing online retail. Both David and Anastacia were court-involved prior to coming to AFJ.
We thank all our foundations and corporate sponsors who have supported AFJ’s HIRE UP program since its 2020 launch. Special thanks to: the Robin Hood Foundation for providing a grant for the purchase of technology allowing for our participants to access HIRE UP; to the Lubetsky Family Foundation for funding the launch of Digital Literacy and HIRE UP services; to the Kenworthy-Swift Foundation for funding the launch of Mental Health wellness programs; and the New York Community Trust for funding HIRE UP’s expansion to include a Youth Activism and Communications (YAC) training program.