OCCHA dedicates new tech center

By William K. Alcorn



Users of the new technology center at Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana can learn computer skills, job search, research school projects and prepare for the Ohio Achievement Assessments.

They also can communicate with others by voice using a microphone and by video using a webcam to see first-hand, for example, how much their far-away grandchildren have grown.

“One of my top priorities when I came here a year ago was to improve our outdated computer equipment and Internet service. Today, with the new Empower Hispanic America Technology Center, that priority has been met,” said Susan Nieves, OCHHA executive director.

The social-service agency was established in 1972 with the principal goals of identifying problem areas in the Spanish-speaking community and establishing programs to address those problems.

The OCCHA technology center, part of a multi-year effort by Time Warner Cable and the League of United Latin American Citizens to expand broadband Internet access and literacy in the Hispanic community, is the 58th such center in the United States.

The partnership provides free, high-speed Internet access for two years and 10 computers and related equipment that will be replaced in five years with updated technology, said Jossie Flor Sapunar, communications associate with LULAC in Washington, D.C.

The technology center, which has been in operation since March, was dedicated Friday with a ribbon- cutting in conjunction with a public open house at OCCHA, 3660 Shirley Road. Jamael Tito Brown, president of Youngstown City Council, presented proclamations from Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone and city council thanking Time Warner and LULAC for investments in the OCCHA center.

“This is what a partnership feels and looks like. You can become more competitive when technology barriers are removed,” Brown said.

“We at Time Warner believe that broadband Internet access is necessary for individuals to compete in a global, knowledge-based economy,” said Don Kosec, Time Warner vice president of business services and a native of the Brownlee Woods area. He also graduated from Youngstown State University with a degree in electrical engineering.

Studies show that fewer than 50 percent of people in the Hispanic community have Internet access. Skills developed in the technology center will enable Hispanics to become more competitive, Kosec said.

Access to the Internet, something most of us take for granted, is growing slowly in the Latino/ Hispanic community, said John O. Ramos, deputy director of LULAC-Ohio.

“Time Warner helps us enhance opportunities and empower the population we serve,” he said.

More than 90 percent of OCCHA’s clients are from low-income households, and they don’t own computers or have access to Internet service. “The technology center is a tool that will be used to help bridge the gap and improve the lives of the growing Hispanic and multicultural population we serve,” Nieves said.

About 6,700 Hispanic people lived in Youngstown as of the 2010 Census, she said.

The generous gift of Time Warner and LULAC will act as a catalyst for continued job training and educational programs for clients, said Minerva Colon, OCCHA board president.

“Our community will benefit greatly from this in the years to come,” she said.

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