SER Metro-Detroit partners with AT&T to close the digital divide

The center is located at SER Metro-Detroit’s Michigan Avenue site.

John Stankey stands at a podium on a stage decorated with blue and white balloons alongside Eva Garza Dewaelsche and Mayor Mike Duggan

AT&T CEO John Stankey speaks at the opening of the SER Metro-Detroit AT&T Connected Learning Center in November 2022.

This month, SER Metro-Detroit celebrated the opening of an AT&T Connected Learning Center. It’s part of AT&T’s $2 billion dollar initiative to close the digital divide among underserved communities.

The center is located at SER Metro’s Michigan Ave. site, and will provide the community with high-speed internet, resources and volunteers to help people access the web for education or employment needs. The organization will also receive $50,000 for its work.

Eva Garza Dewaelsche, John Stankey and Mayor Mike Duggan cut a blue ribbon with a large pair of scissors at the new Connected Learning Center
SER Metro Detroit’s Eva Garza Dewaelsche, AT&T’s John Stankey and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan perform the ribbon cutting at the new AT&T Connected Learning Center in Detroit in November 2022.

Eva Garza Dewaelsche is the President and CEO of SER Metro. She says this collaboration will make a difference in the community.

“It’s going to help our community who [in the] last few years with the pandemic and academics and job search activities, it’s going to help them catch up,” Dewaelsche says.

Dewaelsche says about 35 percent of the local Latino community is not connected to high-speed internet. That’s 10 percent higher than estimates for the rest of the city.

She says she wants to see every household with high-speed internet, computers and the tools to be successful — but until then, people can visit SER Metro Detroit for access to the web.

CEO of AT&T John Stankey says the $2 billion will be used over three years as part of the company’s Connected Learning Initiative.

“We believe that right now we actually have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve this problem in the United States. And we can do it with both the private sector and public sector working together in a partnership to make a difference.”

He says AT&T will spend $10 million to distribute more than 26,000 laptops nationwide, and will open 50 centers like this across the US.

Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroiters suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic when students couldn’t get online for virtual classes.

“In Detroit, our students were completely unprepared, and we have been trying to correct that inequity ever since. A lot of folks have pitched in on what President Biden and the bipartisan infrastructure bill did. It’s going to extend broadband connectivity to houses across this country.”

Duggan says the center will allow students to get online, parents to look for jobs and the community to access resources to close in on the barriers of the digital divide.

The center is located at SER Metro Detroit’s Michigan Avenue site. Along with opening the center, SER Metro will receive $50,000 for its work to help people with education, employment and the tools for self-sufficiency.

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  • Nargis Rahman

    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.