A Refresher on ReStart: A Conversation with DawnDra Landon

As part of DigitalC’s quest to empower the Greater Cleveland community through access to and understanding of technology, the ReStart program provides a variety of courses that provide digital training, workforce readiness and skill training for all proficiency levels. 

DigitalC veteran and ReStart Program Manager, DawnDra Landon sat down with us to discuss the evolution of the ReStart program and some of the exciting initatives that have come out of the pilot.

Erin: Thank you for sitting down with us today. I’m excited to talk about the ReStart program - its evolution and some of the new initiatives that will be offered in 2019. Before we get into ReStart, DawnDra could you give us your name and your role at DigitalC?

DawnDra: Of course! So, my name’s DawnDra Landon, I have been with DigitalC for a little less than 2 years, so I’m coming up on my 2-year anniversary shortly.

The ReStart program has been going on for eighteen months. It’s a pilot program that started as a 1-year pilot program, but we received an extension for it. I am the program manager for ReStart, so my focus is on building and engaging partnerships with the community, making sure I connect the dots, figuring out the next stages of ReStart and how we can help the community, making sure the classes are filled with students that are interested in taking classes, and just helping that student get from wherever they are to the next step in their digital literacy career.

Erin: So how did the ReStart program get started and what was it like in its earlier form?

DawnDra: So, ReStart really kind of started as a “Geek Squad” engagement to Connect the Unconnected program. At the time, our focus was to go inside of buildings, homes, and provide one-on-one access to the internet. With that, we were going to include digital training, because what’s access without a device, and what’s a device without learning how to properly use it?

We kind of changed or shifted the way we thought about ReStart, and in terms of that we decided, “Hey, let’s do some digital literacy training.” So instead of creating what started off as a “Geek Squad” where you go inside of the home, you give them training and some of the residents would become apart of the Geek Squad, we just decided to do it kind of step-by-step.

Erin: What courses does the ReStart program provide?

DawnDra: Well, we’re getting back into the Geek Squad idea, but for now, for these last 18 months we’ve just been focusing on the training that we provide. We currently offer five courses that start with the very basic digital literacy (how to access the internet and how to access your emails), simple things that beginners would be able to engage in and be able to catch on to quite easily.

Then we have the Network and Fundamental Course which is dedicated to youth, primarily high schoolers. In that course, they pretty much focus on computer hardware - breaking down a computer and putting it back together. Next, we have our Computational Thinking course which is a precursor to coding. Computational Thinking is a bootcamp-style class that gives individuals the opportunity to see if they are interested, understand their level of proficiency and discover if they want to learn about coding.

With our last two classes, IC3 and Comp IT A+ Certification, we partnered with CEOGC (Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland). Those two courses allow students to become certified. We’ve experienced high attendance in our IC3 course.

Erin: Are courses held at the Hive or are there other sites where interested individuals can receive training and how do you ensure consistency in what’s being taught?

DawnDra: We do offer classes at the Hive, but there are also other sites that we partner with that offer these courses. We have about 7 or 8 different sites where we teach classes.

I teach classes, we kind of call them “Training the Trainers.” Some of our trainers that come through the ReStart program become instructors themselves so, I’ll just simply go through lesson modules with them. A lot of them are already informed on how to train so it’s really an easy process.

Erin: What kind of programs or initiatives would you like to see ReStart build upon or be a part of? Is there anything new we should expect this year?

DawnDra: One thing that we’re doing, that I said I would like to bring back, is the Y.O.U. (Youth Opportunities Unlimited) program. Last year we couldn’t do it because of funding. So this year, we just submitted a two-year grant proposal to provide a high-speed bootcamp that’s focused on technology. We pick students or youth from age18-24 who are interested in IT and the courses that we offer.

Another program we offer, is Career Readiness. The program includes resume building, mock interviews, learning how to build a resume, learning how to create cover letter, things like that.

Another area we are focusing on is coding. We’re going offer IC3 and Customer Service courses again like we did last year. We’re also going to do an Intro to Comp IT that will not come with a certification, but it will ensure that students have the necessary tools they need to pass the course. Our hope is to get them interested and prepared to take the certification exam.

We also have a partnership with Grow with Google. About mid-year last year, Google came to Cleveland. They were interested because they heard that Cleveland was the next big city to really do things in the technology world, especially digital literacy training, so they hosted a job fair and professional development event that brought some new things to light. The event introduced Clevelanders and everyone was so excited. I’ve seen so many partners, different organizations, corporations, even people who were bringing in their resumes. DigitalC had a table there which was phenomenal and we had really good feedback.

I think sometimes we look at achievement as being certified in x, y, z, when sometimes success to someone else it could mean, “I was able to Skype my granddaughter,” or “I was able to learn how to access my email and send an email off to a potential employer.” It’s those small accomplishments that we shouldn’t overlook. So that’s some of the work we’re doing with Grow with Google and the overall ReStart program.

Erin: Wasn’t there just a graduating class?

DawnDra: Yeah, so actually there were just two. So there was a basic digital literacy class that just graduated at Lutheran Men Ministry which is one of the shelters sites that we teach at, and then there was, one IC3 class that just graduated 8 students that was phenomenal and another class at City Mission. We always have graduations going on, which excites me because I love seeing them excited to get through the class.

Erin: This is exciting stuff, DawnDra! It sounds like there are a lot of opportunities for interested individuals to get involved in.  Thinking through the various courses that ReStart offers, what course(s) tend to get the most response?

DawnDra: I think so too. The Basic Digital Literacy classes are probably the bones. We always have them going on. So many people are really interested in just learning the beginning steps, and you have to meet people where they are.

I love it though and I’m very passionate about it. I’m always happy to be a part of helping somebody, especially participants who are interested in learning.

Erin: DawnDra, how would interested individuals get in touch with you for more information?

DawnDra: Anyone interested in learning more about the ReStart program can contact us at the Tech Hive at (216) 923-2240 or, they can email me at dawndra.landon@digitalc.org.

Erin: DawnDra, thank you for your time in sitting down and walking us through ReStart’s history and some of the exciting courses and initiatives that are coming out of the program.