With Chattanooga dubbed the "Gig City," a group of people have taken it upon themselves to educate locals on smart technology and internet use.
Tech Goes Home, the Enterprise Center's digital inclusion program, celebrated its 3,000th graduate at East Lake Park Sunday afternoon. The program has been teaching digital literacy for free to people of all ages — from preschoolers to senior citizens — for about three years now, said Sammy Lowdermilk, program director.
Chantele Massengill said she's taken three different courses three different times, and has even brought her daughter and niece along.
"It's made my life different," she said, noting it's different in a good way.
Massengill doesn't work in an office setting right now, but she feels more confident when using computers and other types of technology on the job.
The program taught her how to create a slide show in Power Point and the basics of Microsoft Excel. It also gave her a good refresher on some programs she already knew, but may have forgotten how to use to its full potential.
"It's helped having that refresher," she said.
Carisa Brown agreed. She said it was valuable to practice certain skills and learn how to navigate programs that have changed over the years. She's also learned how to navigate local government websites and how to find websites that offer discounts for prescription medications.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke was also present at the event.
"Things are only going forward, and we're only going to have to know more and more about how to use computers, and laptops and mobile devices," he said.
The Tech Goes Home program is one of the many strategies behind that goal, aiming to minimize the divide created by a disparity in technical literacy among local residents based on income, race and age.
"As quickly as the world is changing, a lot is centered around the internet and computer usage," Lowdermilk said. "We are trying to make that education more equitable."
"We are a city of creators," Berke said. "We find different ways to do things, and we put the power in the people of our neighborhoods."
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.