With the help of some stimulus funding and a national program to promote digital literacy, Access Humboldt is hoping to expand the digital horizon for a new generation of storytellers in Humboldt County.

The U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) last week announced a grant award to Access Humboldt for sustainable broadband adoption. Access Humboldt will receive more than $150,000 in funding and support from ZeroDivide, a San Francisco-based foundation, for the Generation ZD Digital Literacy Program.

The program, which fits into the goals of Access Humboldt's Digital Redwoods Initiative, is aimed at teaching underserved and tribal youth digital skills in new media, such as video and audio, and ultimately promote broadband in the area. The curriculum includes training youth in digital storytelling.

Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, said the grant is a good example of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) at work locally.

”This ARRA stimulus funding for Access Humboldt is a positive step forward,” he said in a statement. “Their Digital Redwoods initiative has programs and resources to support our least-served communities and young people living on the other side of the digital divide.”

Access Humboldt Executive Director Sean McLaughlin said learning how to use images and sound, and present it through digital devices, is becoming an imprint skill for youth.

”It's like learning how to read and write, it's like learning how to speak,” he said.


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North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who McLaughlin said helped Access Humboldt throughout the grant process, agreed that digital skills are necessary for youth to be competitive.

”In our globalized economy, the ability to access and navigate the Internet is increasingly a must-have skill,” Thompson said in a statement. “The Digital Redwoods initiative will ensure that our underserved communities are able to learn these important skills. This Recovery funding is great news for Humboldt.”

Access Humboldt is one of seven organizations in six states working with ZeroDivide to develop broadband digital literacy skills, local youth content distribution and community anchor capacity for broadband media programs. Other programs are being launched in Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Utah, as well as within other California counties.

”We get to learn from all these other communities,” McLaughlin said.

The organization will have a little more than two and a half years to establish the program and produce the projects. The organization has also received a member of the Digital Arts Service Corps -- a program that pairs with AmeriCorps to send media-savvy members out to improve the public media infrastructure of rural areas -- who will help identify local resources and people that can help.

For more information about the program, contact Access Humboldt at 476-1798.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.