Verizon’s long-standing commitment to corporate social responsibility is a central part of our mission. Through Citizen Verizon, our company-wide responsible business plan, we are leveraging the power of technology and collective action to move the world forward for all.
Hyper-local engagement lies at the heart of this approach. By nurturing grassroots partnerships, we are deepening our societal impact and shaping meaningful advancements in communities across the U.S. Detroit-based partners like CODE313 and Connect 313 serve as a testament to this work as we support their efforts to bridge the digital divide and cultivate the next generation of tech leaders.
Detroit is one of several cities where digital inclusion is an ongoing challenge. Data from the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology shows that more than 30% of families lack computers in the home, relying instead on smartphones (if any device at all). These disparities hinder meaningful participation in today’s increasingly digital world. That’s why organizations like CODE313 are working to advance digital inclusion by providing equitable access to education in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
CODE313 works closely with Detroit public schools to teach primary students foundational tech skills. From shaping courses, classwork, and afterschool programming, to hosting coding camps and other STEAM workshops, CODE313 is preparing students to thrive in the digital age. Events like their free annual STEAM Slam and Virtual STEAM Academy expose young people to a robust curriculum that includes coding, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. Since our partnership began in 2019, thousands of K-12 students have participated in Verizon-sponsored CODE313 events, with a majority hailing from marginalized communities. Local Verizon employees take great pride in volunteering at these events, helping with everything from setup to staffing teaching stations on a range of topics.
“Equitable access to STEAM education unlocks a world of possibility,” shares Bartel Welch, founder and executive director of CODE313. “We’re grateful for the continued support of corporate partners like Verizon, which enables us to provide essential resources that pave the way for students’ success.”
The growing push for digital equity in Detroit inspired the 2020 launch of Connect 313, which convenes residents, policymakers, community-based organizations, and businesses to identify holistic solutions for fostering city-wide digital inclusion. This includes policy advocacy, providing grants to digital equity-focused organizations, and hosting the now annual Detroit Digital Inclusion Week, which Verizon has sponsored for the past four years.
Brianna Ellison, a director on Verizon’s Public Policy team, is a frequent volunteer with CODE313 and sits on one of Connect 313’s planning subcommittees. “Verizon has seen firsthand that local challenges have local solutions, which is why we love working with these impactful organizations and prioritize equity in our philanthropic investments.”
Our Detroit-based partnerships underscore the value of on-the-ground community engagement. Thousands of local youths have gained invaluable STEAM/STEM skills and career exposure because of these collaborations. Building on this momentum, we recently expanded the Verizon Innovative Learning (VIL) initiative to include three Cornerstone Charter Schools in Detroit. Over three million students nationwide have received digital skills training through VIL. To mark the official program launch earlier this month, we held an event in partnership with education nonprofit, Digital Promise, and the charter school network, where we distributed 1,000 data-enabled devices to students and teachers. In a show-stopping display, students demonstrated their coding mastery by proving that robots really do know how to dance.
As the lines between technology and daily life become increasingly blurred, locally focused initiatives like these are essential for ensuring that no community gets left behind in the digital age. Detroit exemplifies what’s possible when corporations and communities come together with a shared vision.
US Tech Future is a Verizon-led community-focused initiative working to engage local communities in a discussion about technology and how it can improve the lives of local residents for their benefit and the benefit of the community as a whole.