Neighborhood Networks Provide Computers and Job Skills

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., (ANS) -- Two years ago the Friendship Village housing project hardly lived up to its name. The area was deemed so dangerous that police and fire trucks would not go in without backups. Today, local police and unarmed F.B.I. agents volunteer to teach computer skills at the project's computer learning center.

The computer center is part of Neighborhood Networks, a national partnership of government and the private sector that helps low-income housing projects set up computer centers to provide skills to students and adults.

The effort at Friendship Village was spearheaded by Irvin Beard, a local elementary school teacher who persuaded local businesses to donate furniture, Internet access and software. Local universities have provided interns to teach computer classes, and police and F.B.I agents have taught about drugs and neighborhood safety.

Barbara Barnes, regional director of the company that manages the project for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the computer center represents "an incredible cross section of partnerships" in the community.

While the center offers an educational haven to children, most of the students are women who need skills in order to support their families, said Beard. The center has recently been awarded two grants from a local foundation. One of these will provide daycare so that parents will be able to attend more easily. The other will go toward updating software.

Posted September 23, 1997
Copyright ©1997 American News Service

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