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Aug. 30, 2012 12:00 pm

Philadelphia OIC: nonprofit aims to expand its KEYSPOT-backed online GED training program

How can KEYSPOT's more than two dozen organizational partners keep their programs going? They might need to break up to find out.

Inside the Philadelphia OIC's "Blended Classroom" online GED training. Photo courtesy of Erich Smith.

With its $18 million in federal funding set to dry up next summer, the city’s Freedom Rings Partnership/KEYSPOT initiative, a broad public-private partnership aimed at closing the digital divide, is now thinking about survival.

How can KEYSPOT’s more than two dozen organizational partners keep their programs going? They might need to break up to find out.

Two partners — the nonprofit Philadelphia Opportunity Industrialization Center (OIC) and the city’s Free Library — are trying that tactic.

Last winter, they successfully applied for a six-month, $35,000 grant [pdf] through the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy to extend the Philadelphia OIC’s “Blended Classroom” initiative, an online GED training program, says Erich Smith, OIC’s digital program manager. Now, the OIC and the Free Library are teaming up again in hopes of winning a year-long, $75,000 grant from the same Mayor’s Commission.

Smith says he hopes the grant money can help the OIC to reach more people working toward their GED.

The program is important, he says, because it allows people to study for their GED without having to physically be present at every single class. That way, they don’t lose out if they have a full-time job or other responsibilities. The Blended Classroom also equips teachers with digital resources to teach their students more effectively.

The Free Library helped the OIC find spaces for the future classes, like the Nicetown-Tioga Library and the Mercy Neighborhood Ministry, where the Free Library currently runs a public computing center.

One success of the KEYSPOT program, says Free Library Public Services Technology Coordinator Jennifer Donsky, is that it gave way to these “natural pairings,” like the partnership between the OIC and the Free Library. The OIC couldn’t have applied for the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy grant without the Free Library, as all the applicants had to have a library partner.

These smaller partnerships that grew out of the KEYSPOT initiative show “tremendous impact of the federal dollars,” Donsky says.

Read more about the Free Library’s KEYSPOT programs and the Philadelphia OIC’s digital initiatives on Technically Philly.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Technical.ly Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.

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