Free Computer Classes for Ex-Offenders, Unemployed and Seniors

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Mt. Airy Community Computer Center
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of the Mt. Airy Community Computer Center ("MACCC") is to close the opportunity gap for children and adults eager to participate in the digital world. In pursuit of this mission, MACCC will provide affordable access to computers, job ready computer training and the Internet to ex-offenders, the unemployed and low income seniors of Philadelphia. 

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Mt. Airy Community Computer Center's Free Computer Classes for Low Income Philadelphians is a community-based educational program offering that targets three specific and distinct audiences: ex-offenders, low income/unemployed individuals and seniors.Through these free educational opportunities, MACCC aims to increase computer skills in the three targeted audiences and to decrease the digital divide in these disadvantaged populations. With ex-offenders, we train and certify their skill level to a job-ready standard. Low income/unemployed residents gain basic computer skills, get an email address, create an online profile and resume at, and look for jobs. Seniors learn basic computer skills including web email. Knowledgeable instructors, both paid and volunteer, teach all program classes.The target population for all of MACCC's programs is low income residents including seniors, ex-offenders and unemployed, in the northwest section of Philadelphia, including Mt. Airy, Germantown, Logan and Cedarbrook. Additionally, the ex-offenders who attend computer classes come from all sections of Philadelphia. They are all formerly incarcerated, 50% having a GED and 60% unemployed. Of those working, all are earning only minimum wage. The age range breaks out to 21% between 21-29, 36% between 30-39, and 43% between 40-49 years.In 2007-2008, we served 50 ex-offenders, all receiving refurbished computers and 4 hours training in Microsoft Office. The Fall 2008 intake, for 12 ex-offender participants, was strengthened to include 8-16 hours of instruction in several different computer classes including Word, Excel and QuickBooks plus 6 hours in an online job search workshop. We offered the same training intensive program in spring 2009 to 14 ex-offenders. Everyone who finished the program received either a rehabbed desktop PC or a wifi netbook, all installed with XP and Microsoft Office 2007 purchased from TechSoup.In 2008 and again in 2009, we provided over 45 computer classes taught by 10 instructors to over 340 adult education students enrolled through a neighborhood adult education organization. These computer and Microsoft software classes are low cost and many scholarships are given to low income residents.MACCC provided a low cost 8 week computer lab for seniors, twice last year. In the summer and fall of 2008, we served 15 seniors. MACCC is currently training 21 seniors, with another class for twelve scheduled for June. We continue to provide a series of three computer workshops free to low income and unemployed residents. This spring MACCC trained 37 students and there are six more classes on offer.MACCC's Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher program gives away over 90 free computers to low income individuals and families every year.The outcomes we sought and achieved in the past fiscal year (July 08-June 09) are as follows: 1. After 36 hours of training, 20 ex-offenders showed measurable improvement in Using a Computer, Word Processing and Internet/Email. A typical ex-offender increased job readiness, employability and self-confidence, post-program. 2. Post-workshops, over 60 low income and unemployed residents demonstrated new capacity to use a computer more effectively; apply for online jobs; and use web email. 3. Seniors increased their confidence and comfort in using a computer, thus closing the gap between computer illiteracy and literacy, and creating a connection to the modern world.To track outcomes, we use a combination of online pre and post program surveys, weekly post program emails and telephone interviews. Our programs are a great success, here’s a link to the Post program survey results – ended April 2009 ended December 2008One XO got a promotion to supervisor as a result of MACCC's free computer classes program. Nine have applied for and five interviewed for jobs. Four enrolled in advanced certification track computer classes. Two started their own businesses. One woman traveled from one of our classes directly to register for a GED program. She told me afterwards that she has been in prison longer than out, and that she has never had a real job and that our program helped her see that a good life outside was possible.Here's just one comment from an ex-offender who wants to go on and get certified in A+ so he can become a computer technician (and MACCC is helping him with this goal.)"Well as I've explained to you many a time, the program was really a life altering event for me. I always wanted to explore computers more and delve deeper into the world of technology but your program gave me that push that I needed to dive head first into the IT world. I am now pursuing an Associate’s degree in IT at the Metropolitan Career Center Computer Technology Institute.As I've also mentioned to you previously, I am very much interested in pursuing any and all certifications that I can attain outside of my degree. Thank you for the information about the Microsoft Certs. Please, whenever you hear anything about the funding or any help you receive pertaining to your efforts to better educate those less fortunate, I am first in line with my netbook, ready for the challenge.I can't thank you enough Susan for all you do to help the community and all the people in the reentry program. You go above and beyond your call of duty to make it happen for us. I am still plugging away at landing a job, I just came back from an interview. I will never give up. And thanks to your support and education of technology I am that much closer to accomplishing one of my goals. With sincerest regards and heartfelt appreciation, I say thank you."MACCC could not provide these life-altering classes without TechSoup and Microsoft software donations. Our 14 seat lab is currently furnished with Dell Dimension 2400, all with upgraded memory, and all installed with XP and Windows Office Suite purchased from TechSoup. To continue and expand our program, Free Computer Classes for Low Income Philadelphians, we are looking to upgrade our lab hardware and software. I plan to offer Microsoft's Digital Literacy series in the fall. I've just installed it and am preparing lessons based on that offering now.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact