March 9, 2001

Futures Foundation Branches Out to Span Digital Divide

New Programs, More Training and Computer Donations on Tap for 2001

A help desk to keep the computers of nonprofits and community groups running smoothly, and a program to teach girls the technology skills they need in today's high-tech world, are among the initiatives planned for the coming year by the San Diego Futures Foundation.

The Foundation will also continue its work of donating computers and training teachers during its second full year of operation. The Foundation was created by the member companies of the Pennant Alliance, a consortium that runs computer and telephone operations for the County of San Diego under a seven-year, outsourcing contract.

"When we launched our information technology project, one of our goals was to offer as many services as possible over the Internet, saving county residents time and money," said County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard. "The Futures Foundation plays a vital role, because it helps ensure that no segment of our community is left behind as we move toward an e-society."

Since its inception in December 1999, the Foundation has donated more than 1,000 computers to more than 60 schools and nonprofits throughout the county. Along with equipment, the Foundation provides technical training for educators and others. The computers come from the desks of County employees, who are receiving new desktops under the contract with the Pennant Alliance.

The equipment is then refurbished by local youths at a network of centers established by the Foundation at community colleges and training centers. Among the recipients of the computers are residents of Edgemoor Hospital, a County facility for seniors and disabled people.

Next on the Foundation's agenda is the establishment of two new programs: the help desk and the Girls Project.

The help desk will be located at a technical school in Mission Valley. Students at the school will be trained to assist callers with their computer-related problems. The telephone equipment for the help desk will be donated by the Pennant Alliance, which includes Computer Sciences Corp., Science Applications International Corp., Pacific Bell and Avaya Communications.

The Foundation also will train teen-age girls in Web site design and other computer-related skills, which the teen-agers can then teach to younger girls at the San Diego Girls Club. Hardware, sofware and training will be provided to the volunteers and participants in the program through the Futures Foundation and its partners.

"Both of these new programs address one of the core functions of the San Diego Future Foundation —bringing relevant technology tools to those in the community who need them," said Becky Stawiski, the Foundation's executive director.

Among its other activities, the Foundation is playing an important role in the establishment of the San Pasqual Academy, a boarding school for foster youth that will be owned and operated by the County of San Diego. The Foundation is designing a Web site for the school and donating computers. The school, near the San Diego Wild Animal Park in the Escondido area, is expected to take in its first students this fall.

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