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The IRC in Seattle launches new digital equity initiative

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IRC program participants practice new skills at a digital literacy workshop in 2019.

Photo: Gillian Peckham/IRC

Due to the pandemic, many aspects of life have gone digital - work, learning, resource navigation, socializing. The IRC's new digital equity initiative helps newcomers access critical resources and skill-building opportunities in order to overcome the so-called digital divide.

Digital equity and inclusion are critical to unlocking opportunities for Washington’s newcomers. Understanding and navigating digital devices and interactions empowers individuals to continue their education, access services and community resources, pursue economic opportunities, engage with healthcare providers, and participate fully in in their new communities.

When schools closed this spring and classes moved online, the IRC in Seattle’s Youth Program immediately changed their service delivery model to help students and families adapt. "Since March, we have played a big role in helping students and families build digital literacy, navigate school classrooms, and increase engagement,” shared Rachel, IRC’s Youth and Education Program Manager. Today, hundreds of newcomer students across five school districts participate in virtual learning programs with the IRC, including one-on-one academic tutoring and English language learning support, groups workshops, college and career mentorship, and more.

In addition to schooling, many other services and resources have shifted to online operations since the start of the pandemic, and the IRC immediately recognized the need for extra support for clients. "We quickly saw that it was a need expressed by most people and could be applied in contexts such as housing, transportation, applying for and renewing benefits, and so many others," says Anita, who is spearheading the IRC in Seattle’s new digital equity initiative, building on a digital skills pilot project launched last year with support from Microsoft. "I'm so excited to help strengthen, empower, and enable these skillsets for clients across all IRC programs and help clients apply the skills in all areas of of their life.”

Interested in contributing to our work around digital equity? Apply to join the IRC team as a Digital Equity Intern or make a donation to support our local work