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HUD Secretary Julián Castro Marks First Anniversary of ConnectHome at Washington D.C.’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center

Bridging the digital divide has never been more fun for the 44 Washington, D.C.,-area youth who learned on Friday how to assemble computers for their personal use, thanks to the ConnectHome program, a White House initiative that is narrowing the digital divide for families in HUD-assisted housing.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro joined Best Buy and other ConnectHome organizations — including DC Housing Authority, GitHub, EveryoneOn and Kano — to celebrate the initiative’s one-year anniversary at the Best Buy Teen Tech Center in Washington, D.C. In the past year, the ConnectHome program has extended its reach to more than 1.5 million school-age children.

“ConnectHome is helping make sure every tool is at your disposal to realize your dreams — whether you want to be a doctor, lawyer or computer scientist, the key to succeed in the 21st century is access to technology,” Secretary Castro said.

To mark this milestone, Geek Squad Agents and Blue Shirts helped middle- and high-school aged students who have benefited from the ConnectHome initiative during the past year build a modular computer. The students’ imaginations ran wild with the possibilities of having a computer in their own home.

Paris Cheadle, age 12, wants to be a schoolteacher when she grows up and was thinking of how to help her future students.  “I want to build a website to help kids do their homework,” she added.

She’s not the only one whose dreams are coming true, thanks to this public-private partnership. Best Buy Teen Tech Center alumnus Devonte Gooding, 19, was able to explore his passion for photography at the center. After a chance meeting at an art auction that sold one of his photos, he now holds the first-ever photo internship with the U.S. Department of Energy.

“James Brown said ‘open the door and I’ll make my own way.’ The Best Buy Teen Tech Center has helped me make my own way and can help you on yours,” Devonte said.

As part of its commitment to the initiative, Best Buy provides free digital literacy training and Geek Squad Academy courses to teens and families in public housing in more than 20 cities, including Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation.

“We were so proud to take part in the anniversary celebration of this very important initiative,” said Best Buy Community Relations Associate Director Andrea Wood. “Technology access and education are critical parts of creating future careers for our nation’s youth. Hearing inspiring stories like Devonte’s reinforces our commitment to giving underserved youth access to the tech training and tools that help them move from technology consumers to creators.”

If you are interested in checking out the event on Facebook Live, click here.

Photo Caption: Paris Cheadle, age 12, wants to build a website to help kids do their homework. Photo by Martin Evans.