The FCC has found that more than 24 million people living in the U.S., including 19 million living in rural communities, do not have access to broadband internet, an essential service in today’s economy.

The average need for digital skills across 545 occupations rose 57 percent between 2002 and 2016, according to research led by the Brookings Institute.

To help close the connectivity and digital skills gap, National 4-H Council and Microsoft’s 4-H Tech Changemaker program is empowering 4-H teens in 91 communities across 15 states to lead digital skills training sessions, teach the value of digital tools, as well as find technological solutions to real world problems.

In Gordon County, the local teen leaders will work with Gordon County Extension/4-H staff, volunteers, community members, local schools and Microsoft to identify the most needed digital skills in their communities and develop targeted digital skills training sessions. The training sessions will cover key topics from online safety to computer basics and device training over the next year.

These training sessions will help the community take advantage of the new opportunities available to them as broadband access reaches their communities. Broadband internet access was made possible by Microsoft’s Airband initiative, which aims to extend broadband to three million Americans living in rural areas by June 2022.

Gordon County Teen Leaders Noah Marchman, an 11th-grade student at Sonoraville High, and Hannah Jones, a seventh-grade student at Red Bud Middle, attended the regional training for the 4-H Tech Changemakers on from Feb. 28 to March 2 in Columbus, Ohio, along with 4-H County Extension Agent Allie Griner and 4-H Adult Volunteer Leader Rhonda Dunnaway.

Also attending from Georgia was a delegation from Catoosa County and from Whitfield County. These students will be conducting a tri-county training on Saturday, April 13, to teach other teens how to implement the lessons they have learned and created.

Any middle or high school student can participate in this training and then go on to carry out the program to teach adults digital literacy skills, but they must register to attend the training.

“I think it is a perfect opportunity for our 4-H youth to use their leadership, citizenship, and technology skills to teach adults digital literacy and how to use technology and electronic devices,” Allie Griner, a Gordon County 4-H Agent, said. “We are excited to get this project started by training additional students, and then providing technology classes to adults in our community.”

Rhonda Dunnaway, Gordon County 4-H Volunteer, stated that her favorite part of the training was “watching our tech savvy NW Georgia 4-Hers embrace professional relationship building exercises from networking to sales presentation strategies which were geared to help them partner with local organizations and businesses to provide tech training to adults who otherwise do not have access to technology training.”

Her daughter, Hannah Jones, was one of the student leaders on the project and noted that she “learned all about talking to and teaching people and how to follow a lesson plan.

“My favorite part about the training was probably when we got to see what is was like to be in other people’s shoes by trying on funny glasses that represented certain vision problems, doing a hearing test with and without earplugs, and putting on gloves to see how using an electronic device was more difficult with touch problems,” she continued. “I think this program will benefit our community greatly because more adults will know how to operate technology, which can make life a lot easier.”

Dunnaway also added, “I am excited about the possibilities of our Tech Changemakers working with local schools to assist parents who would like to benefit from technology training to enhance their connection with their child’s school but do not currently feel comfortable navigating the various available software systems and with local businesses who would like to offer technology training to their employees.”

Parents and individuals seeking more information on how to get involved can reach out to their local 4-H office by calling 4-H County Extension Agent Allie Griner at 706-629-8685 or visiting the Gordon County Extension Office at 1282 Ga. 53 Spur SW, Suite 200, in Calhoun.

About 4-H:

4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow.

4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills.

In-school schedule

Monday

♦ Sonoraville Elementary – fourth grade

Tuesday

♦ Belwood Elementary – fourth grade

♦ Red Bud Elementary – fifth grade

Wednesday

♦ Fairmount Elementary – fourth grade

Thursday

♦ Ashworth Middle

Friday

♦ W.L. Swain Elementary – fourth grade

♦ W.L. Swain Elementary – fifth grade