Increasing Digital Literacy Skills & Internet Safety for Latino Students

Posted on 08/17/2021 @ 12:15 PM

Tags: Technology, Education

By Melissa Cossio and Priscilla Garcia

With technology becoming more present in our lives, Latinos must know how to take advantage of its benefits. In 2019, a study found Latinos are behind the national average at internet adoption compared to their white counterparts. Only 61% of Hispanics reported having a broadband connection at home, compared to 79% of their white counterparts. A lack of internet access can result in the loss of employment opportunities and educational success. During the past year, a significant number of Latino students across the country attended classes virtually, and those without access to the internet or internet literacy skills have suffered academically.

Now more than ever, internet safety and digital literacy skills are essential to be a responsible digital citizen and protect your privacy online. LULAC acknowledges the critical role that internet safety has in protecting the community. Latinos who are not familiar with safety are vulnerable to sharing confidential information such as health, identity, and bank information. LULAC has been at the forefront for technology access through LULAC’s technology centers and programs that has serviced over 250,000 people across the country and Puerto Rico since 2007.

In 2019, LULAC created the Conexiones program to address the barriers that low-income youth come across with technology in their communities. The program provides youth between the ages of 14 to 18 with basic computer literacy skills and teaches them how to manage the internet in a safe and ethical way while developing their digital skills. Workshops focus on topics such as technology, digital citizenship, how to use the internet for career readiness, privacy and security, and cyberbullying.

During the pilot cycle, 95 students participated in the program of which 73% stated they were able to take the lessons learned in the workshops and apply them to their everyday lives, and 92% were interested in pursuing a STEM career after graduating from high school. Youth familiar with technology will have safer internet habits and be less likely to fall behind in school.

In partnership with T-Mobile, LULAC is welcoming five sites in Arizona, Florida, New York, Texas, and Virginia for the 2021 Conexiones program cycle. LULAC and T-Mobile’s commitment to address the digital divide, expand awareness of internet safety, and highlight the benefits and opportunities to connect to the internet will empower students to create positive technology habits that will be used in everyday activities.

The Conexiones program will also promote exposure to STEM fields of study and careers in an effort to increase the pipeline for students pursuing STEM-related occupations. According to a Pew Research Center report published in April 2021, Latinos are underrepresented among both STEM college degree graduates and STEM workers. Hispanic workers account for 17% of the total workforce across all occupations but only 8% of the STEM workforce, compared to their White counterparts who make up 63% of the total workforce and 67% of the STEM workforce. To increase the representation of Latinos in STEM industries, Conexiones is connecting students with STEM professionals who are serving as role models.

2021 Conexiones Awardees

Richmond Region LULAC Council #4614 - Richmond, VA

Richmond Region LULAC Council #4614 serves the Latino community in their city as well as the surrounding counties in the region. They focus their work on improving the education of Latino students and this year they are focusing on increasing Latino representation in local and state leadership roles while also organizing child center activities that encourage Latino students to continue their education. They have partnered with the Tuckahoe Middle School of Henrico County Public schools to be a strong catalyst in regional efforts to improve the lives of students by developing and implementing high level, futuristic STEM courses, curricula, programs and resources for students which spark interest and develop competencies needed for STEM studies and careers.

Northside High School - Houston, TX

Northside High School’s mission is to promote student creativity, problem solving, resiliency and employability skills through real world, hands-on, college and career readiness community service projects. Their sponsor is also the media club sponsor who has spearheaded and/or assisted the school with grant writing efforts (and included students in the grant writing and implementation process). Allowing students to proactively research grants applicable to their projects and in turn not only apply but to build social capital. They plan on incorporating the topics that students are already learning about with the curriculum for Conexiones.

LULAC WOMEN'S COUNCIL OF FLORIDA #7269 - Bartow, FL

LULAC Women's Council of Florida #7269 caters to the needs of women within their community. Their purpose is to help advance in women’s issues and see their progress. Their vision for this initiative is based solely on the needs lacking within the Polk County Schools and community for young aspiring Latinas. The Conexiones Program will not only open minds, but doors to numerous avenues for these young boys and girls allowing them the opportunity to grow and foster their future careers both academically and professionally. Their vision for this program is not only educational but inspirational. A key ingredient in their council’s mission.

LULAC Council #23101-New York, New York

LULAC Council #23101 in New York will provide each student participating in the Conexiones program with guidance, knowledge, and confidence to work in the STEM/STEAM fields. With staff, resources and connections, the council will offer lessons on all 8 pillars of internet safety and digital literacy.

LNESC El Paso - El Paso, TX

The mission of LNESC El Paso serves low income families within their community and has had 10 years of experience with Technology Educational Programs. Their mission is to create lifelong learners and leaders within the Hispanic community. LNESC strives to provide the highest quality educational opportunities possible and seeks to develop America’s future workforce by effectively preparing young people for the jobs of the new economy. This will be their second year participating in the Conexiones program as they were one of the two sites in our 2020 pilot cycle.

Learn more about the Conexiones program at LULAC.org/Conexiones.

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