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Best Buy and OurCycle LA Bridge Digital Divide for Los Angeles Families

The goal was bridging the digital gap for families, but the theme was empowerment at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles on Sept. 19.

Several families, with help from Best Buy employees, were trained on basic computer skills and went home with something they didn’t have before – Internet connectivity and a computer.

Best Buy partnered with OurCycle LA, a City of Los Angeles digital inclusion pilot program geared at providing free refurbished computers and training to low-income families in Los Angeles.

The program, a collaborative effort in partnership with many nonprofits and organizations, takes thousands of old computers from around the city, refurbishes them and gets them in the hands of youth, seniors and adults who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the technology.  The computers that aren’t able to be reused are recycled.

Best Buy held two training events at the high school – one for parents and one for students. Blue Shirts and Geek Squad Agents gave the grownups some hands-on training on computer use and internet connectivity. The goal was to send them home with enough information to be able to set up their new computers and start using them right away.

Geek Squad Academy (GSA) brought high energy to the students with beats, laughs and ‘ahhs’ echoing down the school halls. Students participated in cutting-edge 3D printing and design activities and got to customize their own beats in digital music class.

Field Lieutenant Dan Dolar, who ran the GSA program, said everything these families learned really helps to connect them with the world. “There was a lot of encouragement to increase the thought process in these kids,” he said. “We wanted them to have fun but then figure out how to take what they learned and apply it at school and beyond.”

Agent Jesse Villarruel, who worked with the parents, said the value of the information they were receiving was clear, with many of them asking important questions and making suggestions.

“We were able to demonstrate to these families the many opportunities technology can bring to them and their children for a better future,” he said.

City Council President, Herb J. Wesson Jr., along with city representatives from the Los Angeles Mayor’s office, greeted parents at the event. The Information Technology Agency, General Services Division and the Bureau of Sanitation have all been involved in the OurCycle LA program.

With Internet-ready computers in hand, the families were able to go home and finally get connected in a new way.