Beginning in April, children and teenagers living in the inner-city will have access to a slew of digital tools, including cameras, laptops and a 3-D printer, as well as a group adult mentors eager to share what they know.
Andrea Ellis is the Digital Youth Engagement Manager for the Kansas City Public Library and is leading the effort to bring experienced volunteers and a van full of equipment to young people at the Southeast and North-East branches of the library once a week.
Last December, the library wrote and received a $94,800 grant from the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, which promotes computer and Internet accessibility and literacy, to create a mobile digital media lab.
That prototype, called the learning labs, was developed through feedback Ellis collected from local youth advisors and funded by a $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the MacArthur Foundation.
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The Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund was unveiled in August 2013, created with $1 million in corporate and foundation gifts and administered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. It takes aim at the local digital divide, looking to enhance access to computers and the Internet and build user skills in underserved, often economically challenged households and areas.
The Library is one of five area nonprofits selected as initial Digital Inclusion Fund recipients.
Amid preparations for its new mobile digital media lab, the Library is seeking area professionals with experience in storytelling, video production, game development, web design, and coding to serve as mentors for participating youths.