turn adults, seniors into computer ACEs
Press of Atlantic City
ACE grants awarded to nine southern New Jersey school districts
give residents free access to computers - at least until the money
By DIANE DAMICO
Education Writer, (609) 272-7241
knew nothing about computers when she arrived at the Community Charter
School in Atlantic City in February. Her
sister, Cynthia, knew very little. Today,
Cassandra is hoping to get a new job using her computer skills and
Cynthia is taking practice GMAT tests online while she attends classes
at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Both
acquired their skills at the free center, funded through a $200,000
ACE grant from the state Department of Education.
districts in southern New Jersey have received grants to expand
technology use into communities through extended hours or partnerships
with libraries, community centers and housing authorities.
ACE stands for
access, collaboration and equity, and the grants have been targeted
to urban and economically disadvantaged towns where residents are
less likely to have computers at home.
Center directors say the program has been very successful. Many
have waiting lists for their classes.
interest is for basic computer skills," said Robert Trivellini,
Millville ACE coordinator. "Our goal is to reach people who
otherwise would not get access to computers, and we are meeting
But as the first
round of grant funds gets set to expire in September, there are
concerns that programs could end if staff cannot be funded. Directors
are searching for new grants or sponsors to keep the centers running,
and said charging for classes could become an option.
allowed us to set up the center and hire two instructors and two
facilitators," said Faisal Youhari, technology director at
the Oceanside Charter school and its ACE center. "We have the
equipment, but we need continued funding to pay the staff."
80 people have signed up for evening classes, and more come just
to use the lab, which is open from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through
a recent Thursday, a dozen people were in Brain Steinberg's class,
plus a handful worked on their own.
interest in classes has increased as word has spread. The 28 computers
are spread among the Memorial School, public library and Holly Berry
Court Recreation Center. There are 30 adults on the waiting list
for classes, and children have been lining up for the summer computer
camps, ACE coordinator Trivellini said. "Right now I have more
kids than computers," he said.
added computers at both the Margaret Mace School and the city recreation
center. School Principal Michael Buccialia said each site attracts
different types of people. "We had parents getting involved
at the school with their children," he said, "and senior
citizens who use the rec center found it convenient to use (computers)
rec center has no set classes, but has open hours with staff on
hand to assist. "Most
of it has been pretty individualized," Buccialia said. "We
wanted to see what the interests were." The
center also has seen a recent influx of foreign students working
in the Wildwoods for the summer who heard about the center and use
the computers to e-mail friends and family at home.
The Buena Regional
School District, which got a grant in the second round of funding,
recently opened its center in the high school library, which is
also a township community library in cooperation with the Atlantic
County Library. Project
coordinator Michael McCausland said he hopes to offer a computer
maintenance course, where students will learn how to build a computer
and keep it when they're done. The center is adding staff and extending
the library is open, the computers will also be available,"
he said. "We have nights and Saturday mornings, and are developing
a schedule for classes."
a unique approach and bought 50 wireless ibook laptop computers
for the Vineland Public Library. The initial plan was to use half
in the library and make half available for loan to students, but
the loan program has been so popular that now 40 are available to
take out for a week, said Holly Rogerson, the library's head of
reference. The library is offering weeklong computer camps for students
this summer and staffing its lab for expanded public use. Rogerson
said the loan program has worked well, with less wear-and-tear on
the computers than she had feared. "We
bought cases for them, and each person gets a checklist we go through
when they borrow it," she said. "There have been some
minor problems, but surprisingly few of them."
that received grants are Atlantic City, Lower Township, Wildwood
and the Cumberland County Technical Education Center.