December 19, 2012
Clare Morris, MSW '09, understands first hand the importance of showing people what technology can do for them. She explained, "We help people recognize the value of technology and how it can make their life easier."
Morris is one of the co-founders of the nonprofit organization iGotITtoo, which seeks to end digital inequality in underserved communities. Morris and fellow co-founder, Santana Kenner, have learned that despite advances in technology, there are people who lack access and knowledge of how to use it. "It's hard for me to think about it if I didn't have it," said Morris, in reference to her laptop, iPhone, and the privilege that comes with technology. Morris believes that people who do not know how to use a computer, the Internet, or software programs have fewer opportunities in a society that increasingly relies on technology.
iGotITtoo seeks to close this divide and empower community members through education. In 2007, the concept of iGotITtoo began with a simple idea: see if people come when a service is provided in their community. Morris and Kenner set up a table in front of housing developments in Brooklyn and offered free computer help. Residents came and were grateful to have a free and useful service. Morris and Kenner then extended their outreach throughout other neighborhoods in the borough.
iGotITtoo incorporated as a nonprofit in 2009, and now offers its workshops in 14 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Their partners include organization such as Jericho Project-Jericho House in Manhattan, Children of Promise NYC in Brooklyn, and Jericho Project Edith W. MacGuire Residence in the Bronx.
Morris emphasized how people in underserved communities are not on an equal playing field. People have time commitments and are trying to balance work, children, and finances. "They are not able to go to a community college to learn about how they can utilize technology to benefit their life. Often they have no one to watch their children or they have other necessary commitments. It's not always feasible to go to the library, and there's a limit on public computers," she said.
iGotITtoo offers basic technology classes, classes for children that focus on the Internet for educational purposes, and intergenerational classes where young people help older adults learn how to use technology. Noticing how difficult it can be for people to have access to technology, iGotITtoo catered its programming to its clients.
In addition to classes, iGotITtoo is building an online curriculum for those who cannot attend workshops in person. Additionally, iGotITtoo's free technology clinic lets people bring a laptop or desktop and techs will help them figure out their technology issues. Said Morris, "Sometimes problems can be addressed before the system is compromised beyond repair."
iGotITtoo launched five years ago with three volunteers, and has now extended to over 300 volunteers. For her work, Morris was awarded the NYU Silver School of Social Work's Outstanding Recent Alumna Award at the 2012 Alumni Day Dean's Luncheon.
iGotITtoo recruits volunteers through their website and various volunteer recruitment portals. Technology training programs also have encouraged their students to volunteer with iGotITtoo to enhance their work experience prior to beginning their search for employment.
"Many volunteers have required hours that they need to complete for training or educational programs but they often return and volunteer more," Morris said. "Our technology volunteers sometimes think they are the quiet, techy person that fixes computers and plays games, but then they have fun being out in the community to neighborhoods." They feel they have given something back. She encourages students at the Silver School to volunteer with iGotITtoo. "Everyone has something to give."
Interested in volunteering? Contact Clare Morris at volunteer@iGotITtoo.org.
By Rachel McCroy, MSW '13