I've been donating to Austin Free-Net for years and continue to be immensely proud of the work that they do. They are kings in the realm of Digital Literacy training and I can't wait to see what they do in their new workforce development endeavors.
Austin Free-Net is a great service to our community. The open labs and volunteers are extremely helpful and friendly. They also have an amazing workforce development program that gives people the skills and certifications to earn a job in IT! Austin Free-Net encompasses all things digital. I am truly honored to be affiliated with this organization and look forward to seeing the great things they will do. Thank you for all that you do Austin Free-Net!
Austin Free-Net is an amazing nonprofit organization working to bridge the digital divide in the Austin area. They are able to provide the ACCELERATE IT certification program to a select number of participants interested in training for entry-level network and computer system administrative positions. It's been a roller-coaster, between feelings of progress and accomplishment, and a sinking dread that I would never make it. My trainer is AWESOME, making me have no fear in technology. Did I mention, ALL fees are paid through the Texas Workforce Commission?
I met Executive Director Juanita Budd as a volunteer for NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network. Juanita spoke during two digital inclusion programs I attended (one of which I organized), at Google Fiber Space in downtown Austin. Life today has become so technological. You can hardly pay a bill, apply for a job, arrange an appointment or communicate with family and friends without knowing how to use tech devices and computers. Austin Free-Net focuses primarily on residents who are of low income, underserved communities in Central Texas, and AFN teaches them how to use technology and to become digitally literate. Basic skills up to formal IT certifications that allow students to secure basic IT jobs are provided, and there are special programs for women and for seniors. In 2017, I agreed to help Juanita research and apply for grants, and I do so at a reduced rate as a professional nonprofit fundraiser. It is a very fulfilling pursuit and I urge everyone to support AFN going forward.
To read a blog post I wrote about digital inclusion, follow this link to Carolyn's Nonprofit Blog: https://carolynmappleton.com/2017/10/08/digital-inclusion-as-we-race-ahead-lets-be-sure-no-one-is-left-behind/. To review Austin Free-Net's GuideStar gold seal profile: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/74-2743446.
“If I had a program like ACCELERATE when I was in my 20s
I’d already be living my dream. I’d be in some big corp. working on
computers, doing what I love doing. I want others
to have this same opportunity.” — Joshua Pauda
A graduate of McNeil High School (2005) in Austin, Texas, Joshua Pauda knew from the age of six that he wanted to get into computers when a friend of his mother’s brought over a computer and gave him an old hard drive to take apart. Recalling that experience, he says, “I always knew I wanted to do something with computers”. Most of my schooling has had to do with IT. It is what I wanted to get into since I got that hard drive to take apart.
Josh remembers that his high school class was the first to pilot an engineering academy. “We were one of the first schools to have engineering as part of the curriculum.” Each year there was a core focus on some kind of engineering like digital, electronic, mechanical, etc. We learned about different components of electronics: capacitors, diodes, resistors, and conductors. Later McNeil HS taught Autocad. “The engineering academy program was to train us to become some type of engineer,” he recalls.
Ever since High School Josh wanted to play with computers…all day! He just didn’t know if he wanted to go to college, go to a trade school, or be a baker. Some of his first jobs pulled him away from his goal of being in IT and managing computer systems.
Joshua applied to Circuit City and was trained as a home theater consultant. Later, he was placed on their “Firedog Squad”. He got to work more closely with computers, home theaters, and other digital stuff. “It was all basic on-the-job training! Basically I was watching someone else fix things and taking notes,” said Josh. “It was eye opening experience because I realized I could do more than I thought possible and I didn’t know where the future would take me,” he said.
College isn’t preparing a young student for tomorrows jobs.
“I want to continue learning and this certification will give me the ability to get me to my destination,” commented Josh. “I didn’t realize how much I still didn’t know until I started taking the ACCELERATE IT program.” There were other techs where I have worked on a higher pay grade than me asking me how to do something technical…which is crazy,” he says. If anything “these classes have taught me how much I’m worth”…. It’s not what I thought it was, Josh recalls. My instructor, Kevin Lemiux, isn’t just teaching us book knowledge but life lessons, what we should be doing with this knowledge, career advice, business advice, etc. He tells us, “don’t try to undersell your services because you’re worth more than that”. When it comes to furthering your career you have to put yourself first.