December, 2019
Welcome to Cristina Connections

Honoring our Partners in the Cristina Network
and thankful for all you do to help people in need.
You have to have the perspective about the critical aspects that change people's lives, said Tom Esselman, He is the CEO of Connecting for Good , a nonprofit organization that values the power of digital inclusion. This organization works to provide computers, training on learning literacy skills, and getting internet access to low income communities. He calls this “God’s work.” Esselman thinks about the many whose lives his organization has touched and declares “ Digital inclusion changes lives.”

Tom Esselman recalls when Google Fiber proposed a plan that would install gigabit speed broadband in the city to support Kansas City’s under served citizens. Google Fiber, the city’s two anchor organizations - the public library and the school system - and Connecting for Good formed a coalition to focus attention on digital inclusion, that is the policies that needed to be developed and the community action that needed to be taken to close the gaps of the digital divide.
In designing the activities that supported digital inclusion (such as digital literacy classes, training in the computer skills required in the workplace, and learning how to refurbish computers ), Esselman reiterated that the policy of Doing With, not Doing For was essential. In support of this policy, the people from the community help determine what courses would be most meaningful to them and take an active role in Connecting for Good's management of the technology reuse refurbishing program.
The Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion has gradually grown from four to nearly 40 organizations who participate in work groups, monthly meetings, the sharing of ideas and resources and working together as a team. They represent nonprofits, Kansas City governmental agencies, colleges, corporations, the chamber of commerce, various learning centers, curriculum developers, phone companies and more.

Tom Esselman calls the coalition a responsive partnership. He says, “we are stronger walking together. We walk hand in hand building relationships, learning from each other, while developing greater clarity."

At the end of the day, he notes, we already see that internet services are available to those who cannot afford them, technical skills have been acquired for school success and employability, and importantly, the active involvement of people in the community. We can’t just be outsiders looking in.”
One Spirit is a nonprofit foundation that was founded about 10 years ago to bring needed resources to the Oglala Lakota people who reside in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Oglala Lakota people are working to overcome the challenges they have encountered due to the decades of neglect, discrimination and forced destruction of their traditional cultures. They seek to promote a life of self-respect and self-sufficiency.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Native American reservation. The counties in this region are among the poorest in the United States. The state of education on the reservation is severely lacking. The school drop-out rate is over 70%, and the teacher turnover rate is eight times that of the U.S. national average. Unemployment ranges between 85% and 95%. (wikipedia).
In 1971 the tribe founded the Oglala Lakota College , one of the earliest tribal colleges in the nation. First started as a two-year community college, it has expanded to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees, as well as a master's in Lakota leadership. It is operated by tribal people with a tribal board. This college has become an important anchor agency for education and training. It offers a wide range of educational opportunities. It has outreach locations in the county’s 9 districts.

Jeri Baker, One Spirit ’s executive director explains that One Spirit helps the Lakota meet their basic needs and seeks to provide a culturally rich life for their youth. Their vision is “a self sufficient Lakota Nation that has sustainable resources to care for their people.” They believe that computer technology are important tools to build self sufficiency, particularly important because of the ability for remote learning and linking to critical work skill's training and health information and help. There are two kinds of schools on the reservation, tribal and State Department of Education schools. The reservation has NO libraries except for one small library for children in the Allen Youth Center
For the Oglala Lakota nation, sufficient access to technology could support their ability to develop ways of study that would be meaningful for fulfillment in their society. It would give them greater access to new opportunities as well as to people that can help them to learn skills and to acquire the information that they need to become productive in the Lakota way of life.

Welcome One Spirit to the Cristina Partner Network!
Happy Holidays!
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