Public School Notebook Spotlights ‘Freedom Rings Partnership’s’ Impact on Students

PHL Freedom Rings: Internet access for students
Jul 25 2011

This guest blog post about public computer centers comes from Javier Morris, a recent graduate of Bodine High School for International Affairs and recent alumnus of the Philadelphia Student Union.

Mayor Nutter helped officially open five new computer centers. He began his remarks with the Media Mobilizing Project's slogan: “Movements begin with the telling of untold stories.”

We live in a society in which technology and Internet access have become an important part of our daily lives. In fact, the United Nations recently declared access to the Internet a human right, stating: “Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights…ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states.”

I agree that Internet access is a human right, especially because it is intertwined with the human right to education. For students in the city of Philadelphia, access to technology and the Internet have become a necessity in order for them to excel.

While schools are requiring more and more computer research to be done, accepting papers and essays only in typed form, and providing assignment info online, many students are falling behind because of the lack of computer access.

This unfortunate void between those who have regular Internet access and those who don’t is known as the digital divide.

The divide is also widened by the recent school budget cuts, which have lead to the closure of student success centers in many neighborhood schools. Add to this all of the public schools that don’t allow after-school access to their libraries, and the fact that public libraries (which only give students one hour of Internet access) are also struggling under budget cuts.

These things mean that the Philadelphia students who don’t have Internet access at home are faced with serious obstacles to getting online. In many cases, students on the “have-not” side of the digital divide end up trailing behind the students who have regular Internet access.

Javier Morris at Philadelphia Student Union's computer center grand opening.

With all this in mind, I am glad to announce that the Philadelphia Student Union has opened a Young People’s Computer Center. This center is beginning to fill the void for students by giving students a free, comfortable place to get online and offering much needed workshops on job and college access.

The Young People’s Computer Center is one of five new public computer labs that were created by the Media Mobilizing Project through federal funding from President Obama’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The opening of these new computer centers will help ease the burden in communities whose resources are already overtaxed.

While these public computer centers are the beginnings of a bridge across the digital divide, it cannot stop with the opening of just these five centers. This should be considered a starting point of a bigger movement to allow more obtainable access to the Internet for all of the citizens of the city of Philadelphia.

The Young People’s Computer Center is located at 4205 Chestnut St. at the offices of the Philadelphia Student Union. The center offers young people a unique youth-centered space to access the Internet. The summer hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Every Thursday at 1 p.m. workshops on job and college access are offered. For more information about the Young People’s Computer Center, please contact Chris Willis at 215-668-5631 or email him at

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