A united effort
By Deb Silverthorn
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas (JFS) and AT&T have joined forces, expertise, space and mission through the just-launched Connected Learning Center (CLC). The dedicated space provides digital support and other computer skills-related courses and hosts 15 new Dell computers, whiteboards, desks, televisions, projectors, a kitchenette and more. The computers were donated by Plano-based World Wide Technology.
The goal of the CLC is to bridge gaps in digital proficiency.
On Thursday, May 4, a ribbon-cutting was held at the CLC’s location at Belt Line Road and the Dallas North Tollway. It is part of AT&T’s three-year, $2-billion commitment to communities around the United States.
“Collaborating with AT&T to launch a Connected Learning Center falls right in line with the goals of our organization, putting us at the forefront of responding with care, compassion and high standards to our community that has faced critical and unexpected challenges when it comes to online access and education,” said Cathy Barker, JFS president and CEO.
This is the fourth Connected Learning Center in Dallas and is Texas’ only stand-alone location; AT&T is planning another 46 across the country in the next year.
“Our investment in the AT&T Connected Learning Center with JFS directly reflects our commitment to get more Americans connected and to impact the communities we serve,” said Lynette Aguilar, AT&T vice president and general manager, North Texas.
In 2022, JFS’ five-member career and financial services department helped 2,154 job seekers, with a 77% rate of employment. Linking to the CLC, JFS looks forward to reaching further into the community itself and through other organizations that provide such services.
“This relationship allows us to advance our own mission to provide effective and accessible services that promote self-sufficiency for the Greater Dallas community,” said Barker.
Jill Tokumoto, who in February joined JFS as the agency’s community liaison, is a retired elementary school principal with a passion for education. Her relationship with JFS began just after her retirement when she became a volunteer at the JFS Food Pantry.
“Everyone here is so kind and gracious and I decided retirement wasn’t really what I wanted. I was approached about this position and I couldn’t be happier,” said Tokumoto.
She has already forged relationships with nonprofits such as the Richardson Adult Literacy Center and St. Vincent De Paul and schools including Anne Frank Elementary, John Haley Elementary and Hillcrest High School. During the summer, Seed Dropper Academy, through Addison-based Wealth Climber$, will be open to students ages 9 to 17; a partnership with Dallas College will soon include GED and English as a second language (ESL) courses.
In addition to the general public, courses offered at the CLC will allow thousands of JFS’ own clientele access to computers and the ability to develop technology skills to succeed in job searches and their careers.
“The grant for the CLC requires it be used to provide for working with schools, seniors, ESL students and the underserved. So many of our clients fit in at least one, more often more, of those categories,” said Phil Konecki, JFS career services manager.
“In addition to bringing in other organizations, we’ll be teaching our own classes, we’ll hold networking events and more,” he added, noting that he has taught for JFS, online in the last two years, 84 Microsoft training courses to more than 2,500 students in 10 countries.
The association between AT&T and JFS provides the Richardson Adult Literacy Center not just another site for its students, but also an opportunity to connect to JFS programs.
“At this location, for which we are grateful, we’ll be teaching digital literacy, through a grant from AARP to those ages 50 and up,” said Patricia Thomson, the agency’s executive director. “Adding these skills to our workplace preparatory curriculum is essential. JFS reached out to us and we are just thrilled to connect and to teach others to connect digitally, together.
“We hope to work with JFS to be able to share their many programs with our students, to include them in our newsletters and however we can. We share a mutual concern for serving and I love cross-collaboration,” said Thomson. The Richardson Adult Literacy Center is also offering a wide variety of classes at 19 sites throughout the community.
“The digital divide continues to grow. The combined efforts of JFS and AT&T, for whom we are so thankful, will close the gap allowing people to live better day-to-day, professionally, financially and in so many ways,” said Allison Harding, JFS senior director of career and financial services. “This is not about recreating the wheel, but about having the wheel in front of us and using it to help so many more people.”