Lawrence Community Works Takes Home First Prize in Haverhill-Based Digital Equity Challenge

A group from Lawrence Community Works, center. took home first prize during the third annual Digital Equity Challenge pitch contest. They are flanked on the left by Rachid Moukhabir’s team that won second place for a training program called Mass Association for Computer and Internet Resources and, on the right, by the Josefa Arriagada Saieh and Karina Calderon group who finished third for an idea to turn an alleyway into a community space with free outdoor Wi-Fi. (Courtesy photograph.)

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An idea to bring free Wi-Fi and education to a Lawrence public housing project was the top winner of the third annual Digital Equity Challenge pitch contest that took place May 2 in Haverhill.

Lawrence Community Works was awarded $5,000 for first place for a project to provide free, reliable Wi-Fi throughout its affordable housing project in Lawrence as well as provide a community advocate to help residents access Wi-Fi and Internet resources.

“LCW’s community programs are designed for maximum integration with residential life and to support an overarching goal of family economic mobility,” said Jacob Greer, Executive assistant and resource developer at Lawrence Community Works. “No matter how someone may be connected to the LCW network, our goal is for them to access a diverse menu of supportive resources and offerings depending on their individualized situation and aspirations.”

Rachid Moukhabir of Methuen won second place for his proposal to expand his information technology training program, called Mass Association for Computer and Internet Resources.  Moukhabir said his program helps underserved populations enter the IT workforce and provides support and further training to allow those workers to continue to grow in the industry.

Josefa Arriagada Saieh, a MassDevelopment fellow working in Lawrence, and Karina Calderon of the Lawrence Partnership won third place and audience favorite for a project to turn an under-utilized alleyway in Lawrence into vibrant community space with free outdoor Wi-Fi access.

Other presenters were Minds With Purpose, a digital content creator and community builder, and Build Game Box, a Haverhill-based subscription box to teach digital game design and concepts to children and teens.

The challenge was presented by the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub in Haverhill and Essex County Community Foundation.

“Through the Digital Equity Challenge, we’ve encouraged the community to use entrepreneurial thinking to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of digital literacy, access and equity, and we’ve seen great results,” said Stephanie Guyotte, associate director of the Innovation Hub Haverhill.

Kate Machet, director of strategic initiatives and government relations at Essex County Community Foundation added, “To successfully close the digital divide in Essex County, we need solutions that are by, from and for the community.”

Five finalist teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges and a total of $10,000 in cash prizes was awarded.

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