By Alfredo Santos
La Voz Newspaper
AUSTIN — Dove Springs, a very large and mostly Spanish-speaking community in southeast Austin, is about to get a technology makeover. Spurred on by a new initiative, TechComunidad, a multifaceted plan launches this
month at River City Youth Foundation and promises to change the lives of thousands of parents and children in Dove Springs who have no technology or connectivity at home.
I recently sat down with Oné Musel-Gilley, the visionary behind TechComunidad, who’s leading the tech movement in partnership with Dell and others. Musel-Gilley has worked in Dove Springs most of her life as the marketing/ PR ambassador for River City Youth Foundation, an organization created by her mother Mona Gonzalez
nearly 30 years ago.
However, Dove Springs hasn’t been her only area of focus. She has spent about six years mobilizing communities to reach 100,000+ parents and children in Austin and around the country. She’s the founding
co-producer of Austin’s native Feria Para Aprender program and recently spearheaded its expansion into South Texas, Miami and Dallas working with thousands of volunteers and representatives from nonprofits, colleges, and community organizations.
I asked her to share the vision of TechComunidad, which takes place at River City Youth Foundation (5209 S.
Pleasant Valley) on Saturday, March 31.
La Voz: Tell us about TechComunidad. What’s the vision? What are the goals?
OMG: I’ve been in the trenches serving low-income families all over Austin since I was a young girl. My mom would office out of her car as we roamed housing projects all over Austin holding youth programs and workshops in different neighborhoods.
I’ve seen up close the nuances of poverty in a household. I’ve observed how it not only impacts a young
person’s life but a parent’s ability to successfully guide their child. I’ve also experienced how important it is to have a neighborhood-based approach to empowering families in poverty who are hard to reach and hardest to impact.
What I see happening right now is this huge technology divide that’s further driving the educational divide in hard-to-reach communities. These neighborhoods have the greatest number of kids and the greatest number of parents who are not equipped to guide them. Many of these families also have language barriers.
First, TechComunidad is all about delivering the power of technology to the doorsteps of the people versus expecting a family to go outside of the comfort of their community on what can be an intimidating subject – so it’s community-driven.
Secondly, TechComunidad shrinks the technology divide with a very simplified curriculum combined with a culturally relevant approach. When families leave TechComunidad, they leave with three things to immediately
change behavior and empower their lives: the confidence, the basic steps, and a tech product.
La Voz: Why TechComunidad in Dove Springs?
OMG: I always make it a point to ask every new person I meet in Austin if they’ve ever
ventured to southeast Austin. Eight out of the 10 I ask don’t even know where the intersection of Stassney and East I-135 come together.
The southeast Austin Dove Springs area is geographically the largest community we have in Austin with a population of 40,000+. Dove Springs also has the greatest share of Austin ISD’s middle school students and the city’s largest Latino youth population – the majority of which live in poverty.
Despite those statistics, Dove Springs remains one of the most under-resourced communities in the area. It
continues to get left off the radar. The challenges are enormous in Dove Springs, an area with one of the largest educational achievement gaps, greatest childhood obesity, highest poverty and a majority Spanish-language dominant community. If we can ignite a new tech culture in Dove Springs, we can do this in other similar communities as well.
La Voz: What takes place at TechComunidad on Saturday, March 31?
OMG: It will be an inspiring day. TechComunidad will be held at River City Youth Foundation
in Dove Springs and will mark several milestones.
It is the official launch of RCYF’s Wired & Inspired Neighborhood (WIN) program which calls for a new strategic plan supported by Dell’s Powering the Possible initiative to “wire” Dove Springs.
About 700 of the least “wired” parents and students in Dove Springs have been selected to attend TechComunidad — so we’re targeting the highest needs. The majority of families are Spanish-language
Also on this day, River City Youth will convert its 87,000-sq.-ft. indoor and outdoor center into a free public wi-fi spot for the community with additional wi-fi spots planned in Dove Springs for late spring and fall.
The plan also calls for building a pipeline of bilingual technology workers locally and regionally through increased educational opportunities in Dove Springs.
La Voz: What do families receive?
OMG:So many community organizations, whether they’re education or health, have great programs for parents and youth. They may provide training or services on a variety of topics to families. But a lot of times that messaging and behavior change doesn’t stick simply because there’s no technology access in the home and/or there’s a lack of confidence or basic tech understanding by the parent.
At TechComunidad, each household is put on an empowerment path where they receive customized training and
a technology product. The emphasis here is on how technology integrates with education, health, government,
and other areas of life.
Every family has been interviewed ahead of this day so we know exactly who’s coming and what their needs are. The playing field is leveled and they can immediately improve the quality of their life.
La Voz: Who are the partners participating?
OMG: It’s an exciting mobilization that’s happening right now to address the technology needs in Dove Springs and beyond. Our primary RCYF supporter is Dell, which through its Powering the Possible
initiative has enabled us to dream big and position Dove Spring’s burgeoning youth population in bilingual tech and other careers.
Other partners include ACC, City of Austin, Las Comadres, the Texas Baptists, United Methodist Church, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Austin ISD, UT, KIPP Austin, and many others. We are grateful for everyone’s support.
La Voz: What’s next after Saturday, March 31?
OMG: After this month’s launch, there will be additional TechComunidad events planned for Dove Springs and in similar high-needs communities around Austin, and even in similar low-access communities across Texas.
There will also be several exciting announcements coming for Dove Springs.
La Voz: How does someone help or get involved with TechComunidad?
OMG: We’re looking for individuals or groups that want to be matched with a family to help provide the funding for their technology start-up, whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet, or a cell phone.
We also need Spanish-speaking volunteers who want to serve as family mentors and guides at TechComunidad. These are volunteers that look after a parent and their students for the day. You don’t need to be technology experts, just be reliable and have a passion about making a difference. To sign up or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.TechComunidad.com for volunteer forms and other information.
How Can You Help TechComunidad?
· Donate a Computer, Tablet or Laptop
· Contribute Funds — get matched with a family to fund their technology start-up
·Volunteer as a Family Guide/Mentor on the day of the event – look after parents and
·Serve in other Volunteer Roles at the event (tech support, instructor assistance, logistics, etc.)
·Be a Youth Mentor – sign up to mentor a young person after the event
.Donations can be made to River City Youth Foundation through Paypal handle: RCYFPR@aol.com.