Diverse Partners Tackle Digital Divide Together

One local nonprofit is leveraging nonprofit-corporate partnerships to create change.

While attending the University of Colorado, Boulder native Kern Shahi received a scholarship to address a pressing social issue with a community project.

Seeing how lack of internet access at home was hurting local students and their opportunity to succeed, Shahi started making connections with businesses, schools, families and other organizations to help. From this project, the nonprofit ConnectME was born.

ConnectME educates families about the services available to them, including the Internet Essentials program, Comcast’s affordable internet service for low-income families. Kern’s work to address the digital divide in Colorado was highlighted in a recent report on CBS4. Click here to watch the full story.

We sat down with Shahi to ask him about the power of partnership and how young people can impact community change.

Young people can get stereotyped as “slacktivists”, but you are doing great work balancing community engagement and your education. How have you stayed on track with managing Connect ME and being a student?

When you’re passionate about something, you want to give your time and energy to that. For me, I have always known I wanted to use my degree to give back to the community, so it was easy for me to prioritize my school work while also volunteering and looking for ways to get involved in the community. It was hard starting ConnectME at first, because there weren’t many tangible results. But over time, we have seen some cool impact.

How do you think nonprofits can partner with business to fix or address social problems?

Businesses and nonprofits can benefit from each other, whether through funding, shared knowledge, or networking. You need both parties to make a difference around community issues.

For example, Comcast wants to spread the news about the services they offer, while also helping families in need. That’s why they introduced Internet Essentials. They knew that having more families connected to the internet would benefit the economy and provide opportunities for students and workers to succeed. So it makes sense that they would partner with nonprofits that have similar goals in order to amplify the impact. Something that Comcast does well is to live out their company values by partnering with nonprofits that share those values.

How can students like yourself connect with community-minded companies like Comcast? How can the business community forge relationships with students and colleges to make programs like ConnectME possible?

Every time I’ve hosted an event and invited college students, my friends are enthusiastic to come and help. Comcast and other businesses can take advantage of that by hosting and sponsoring events and inviting college students. The students benefit from the opportunity to build relationships with working professionals and gain insight into corporate culture. In return, business leaders can network with current students, share their company values, and even recruit students for future job opportunities.


(photo credit CBS)

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