The mountain counties of Western North Carolina saw a huge increase in Latino populations over the last decade. In Yancey County, for example, the Spanish-speaking population increased 975% over the last 10 years, while Mitchell and McDowell saw increases of 622% and 1,064% respectively. "As people settle out of the migrant work stream and into the community, they face many barriers to community participation: isolation, language barriers, lack of transportation, lack of work, lack of health care and uncertainty about their documentation status," according to the WNC-based nonprofit Center for Participatory Change.

At a time when economic advancement increasingly requires technological competence, achieving digital literacy is a steep challenge for Latino citizens. According to the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, "Basic and advanced telecommunications technologies -- including the telephone, computer networks, and the Internet--are vital components of economic and social life in modern-day society [...] For Latino communities throughout the US, these technological advancements permit, say, small businesses and underprivileged students alike to leapfrog their (generally) disadvantaged place in the global economy and make uncommon strides. "

Clearly, digital literacy is vital for increased Latino participation in, and contribution to, Western North Carolina's economic and civic spheres. The Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) is well-positioned to join forces with local ESL (English as a Second Language) agencies and economic justice organizations--such as the Center for Participatory Change, the Latino Advocacy Coalition, and Centro Encuentro Familiar--to bring the benefits of digital literacy to our region's growing Latino population.

Currently, most traditional literacy instruction in WNC is conducted by volunteers with local libraries, agencies, and literacy councils. For example, community organizations, such as local Literacy Councils, International Link, and the Blue Ridge Reading Team, train volunteer tutors in ESL instruction and language-acquisition methodologies. These ESL tutors in turn conduct free or low-cost classes with local immigrant populations, the majority of whom are Latino.

MAIN's Digital Literacy Project will strengthen these local ESL endeavors through the development and dissemination of online curricula which unite English language acquisition with the cultivation of vital digital literacy skills. This twofold approach to literacy--an approach to learning that unites the linguistic and technical realms--will be designed to help strengthen the Latino community's participation in economic and civic life. Additionally, the MAIN Digital Literacy Project will enhance the work of local ESL agencies and volunteer tutors by providing them with much-needed access to effective, easily-implemented curricula for learners at all stages of language acquisition and technical mastery.

A variety of well-designed digital literacy curricula for students and teachers of ESL is presently available on the Web. Unfortunately, the curricula often are unknown or unavailable to ESL practitioners and students, and hence are not currently integrated into existing local ESL endeavors.

MAIN is prepared to compile and integrate online digital literacy curricula with existing ESL curricula currently used by local ESL agencies. More importantly, MAIN will customize this online curriculum for local Latino communities by integrating it, for example, with Spanish-language content from local social service and economic justice agencies. We will also "localize" this online content by integrating the local Spanish-language newspaper El Eco with this online curriculum. El Eco is currently not online. Bringing this vital local newspaper online will be our first priority.

Obviously, creating compelling online Spanish-language content is not alone sufficient incentive for Latino citizens to acquire digital literacy. Though we will also be offering free training workshops for Latino citizens (to be discussed later), free and easily accessible workshops are likewise not sufficient.

Our discussions with ESL and other Latino advocacy leaders have yielded the clear consensus that extensive, face-to-face community organizing and outreach will be necessary to raise awareness of--and promote interest in--the acquisition of digital literacy by Latino citizens. To this end, MAIN and our Latino advocacy partners will create a community outreach plan as well as printed materials in Spanish to introduce the basic concepts of the Internet and digital literacy to targeted Latino communities.

For example, a birthing class in Yancey County started by bilingual Latino advocate Teresa Onofrio (a member of our steering committee) has evolved into a knitting class for these young mothers. Working in this specific venue, we will begin building awareness of the benefits of digital literacy among these key Latino citizens who, in turn, will be encouraged to share this awareness with their spouses, children and extended families.

This community outreach and training will be supplemented by an online clearinghouse of digital literacy curricula, programs integrating digital literacy into local ESL teaching, and regional ESL public access terminals, MAIN's Digital Literacy Project seeks to unite these valuable learning resources with the area students and teachers who need them.

Uniting under-served populations of Western North Carolina with access to tools and information is at the core of MAIN's mission as a community network. MAIN is best known for providing local dial-up Internet access to more then 5,000 mountain citizens, with a special emphasis on serving low-income and disabled citizens. Moreover, since 1996, MAIN has helped local libraries provide free public access to the Internet. MAIN is also coordinating efforts with Latino advocacy groups to establish the region's first public access sites designed specifically for ESL participants.


Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) is a regional nonprofit ISP and community network with an established relationship among mountain residents and in the nonprofit, public service community. MAIN's efforts, strengths, and core values represent a solid foundation on which to build a successful and sustainable Latino digital literacy effort.

To ensure success and sustainability, digital literacy training must occur within a network of ongoing mutual support. MAIN possesses the social and technological infrastructure necessary to provide this focused ongoing support for Latino citizens. Indeed, MAIN's successful collaboration with regional independent-living agencies to provide digital literacy training for citizens with disabilities is invaluable experience for meeting the special challenges facing the Latino communities in our region.

MAIN will work collaboratively with the staff of El Eco, a local Spanish-speaking newspaper; the Center for Participatory Change; Western Carolina Community Action; numerous regional Literacy Councils; Emma Resource Center, Centro Encuentro Familiar, and the Latino Advocacy Coalition of Henderson County, to evaluate existing digital literacy/ESL curricula. These curricula will be implemented through a series of "train the trainer" seminars, which will involve close collaboration with ESL teachers in literacy councils, libraries, and Latino community groups throughout Western North Carolina

To further ensure a collaborative spirit of community, MAIN will implement an email listserve to which individual county e-Communities representatives can subscribe in order to network on the issues of digital literacy faced in each community. This list will link community leaders to those in the region in the best position to provide information and access on the local level. In addition, the mailing list will provide the opportunity for e-Community educators to pool resources, knowledge and experience as each builds programs of their own.

Working closely with our Latino advocacy partners will be the key to successful grassroots organizing for digital literacy. This organizing and awareness-building will be the foundation for our "train the trainer" workshops and for the volunteer-driven workshops aimed directly at specific Latino community groups, such as the knitting class in Yancey County.



MAIN anticipates the long-term sustainability of this project through the involvement of technical volunteers enlisted to update the website and keep the curriculum fresh and timely.

As we have an established relationship with a network of technical volunteers in the region, MAIN will serve as a liaison between individual nonprofits and community centers and the technical community. We will actively recruit instructors as well as content-developers for the ESL section of our Digital Literacy website.

Active volunteer recruitment and publicity will be the key to the sustainability of this project. The involvement of local organizations and individual leaders and members of the Latino community will support the ongoing effort to bring the community members into the fold of those who successfully use modern technology to establish literacy and to enrich their own lives and the lives of their families and neighbors.

MAIN's existing network infrastructure, plus the social infrastructure of our partners and volunteers, will be sufficient support to sustain this project indefinitely.


Whether in one-on-one tutoring sessions or in small groups, Latino ESL participants will have the opportunity to become digitally literate on the primary three levels described in the RIAA's definition of digital/Internet literacy:

Classes and self-guided curricula will also be available in areas beyond the basic three-tiered definitions, such as:

PROJECT WORKPLAN (Timeline, Job Descriptions, Budget)


August 1, 2002 Receive funds

First meeting of steering committee

(comprised of community leaders representing the
Latino community) *See attached preliminary list of steering committee members.

Establish e-mail mailing list for Latino leaders, local
e-Communities and instructors interested in ESL digital literacy issues

Begin search for bilingual program coordinator/web designer

Begin publicizing project and seeking input from community through print, email and web marketing

September 1, 2002 Hire part-time program coordinator/web designer
on contract/freelance basis for December 1 site launch

(See attached job descriptions, subject to edit by steering committee)

September 21, 2002 Steering committee's second meeting to determine program evaluation and feedback.

October 1, 2002 Program coordinator begins research into "best practice" curricula and implementation methods; begins creation of "master list" of volunteer ESL teachers interested in implementing curriculum


October 1, 2002 Meeting of steering committee to determine of site's overall look and feel

October 15, 2002 Review of site - revisions determined


October 20, 2002 Program coordinator presents findings for review by steering committee and Latino community leaders

October 30, 2002 Second review of site as per earlier revisions


November 1, 2002 Program coordinator develops beta version of curricula

November 10, 2002 Definitive list of volunteer teachers and secured; timeline of sites for project implementation solidified by program coordinator


November 15, 2002 Final review of curricula by steering committee and ESL teachers

November 20, 2002 Site beta test, utilizing final curricula and functionality

November 25, 2002 Last day for final revisions to site


December 1, 2002 Begin live classes in rural counties (e.g., Yancey, Henderson, Haywood) with opening of 2 locations of public access sites in communities with heavy concentration of Latino population; have in place Internet-ready computers in each of 4 regional Literacy Councils.

Website unveiled and accessible (but dynamic and developing) with curriculum in place supporting the first three levels of digital/Internet literacy as defined by RIAA; El Eco newspaper online; portals to digital literacy curriculum available on web.

Begin intensive online and print marketing of website to Latino community members and advocacy organizations

March 1, 2003 Served 25 Latino citizens in each of 5 locations
(125 total).
An additional 350 served through website.

June 30, 2003 Served 30 Latino citizens in each of 10 locations
(300 total)
An additional 700 served through website.

Meeting of steering committee for evaluation and planning

Curriculum site is to be maintained by volunteers under guidance from the steering committee.



BUDGET: (see attached)

We apply for the funds to provide our region's Latino ESL learners with access to:

The funds will be used to hire a digital literacy project coordinator/designer (see Job Description) who will oversee the creation of an interactive, clearly organized website that addresses the RIAA's three-tiered definition of digital/Internet literacy (by December 1). The remainder of curriculum and content will be designed by steering committee by the end of the grant year, June 30, 2003.

Project sustainability will come through collaboration of interested nonprofits to include those on steering committee, presently: MAIN (Mountain Area Information Network), WCCA (Western Carolina Community Action), CPC (Center for Participatory Change of Western North Carolina), four area Literacy Councils spread across the region, El Eco (a local Latino newspaper), Emma Resource Center, Centro Encuentro Familiar, Latino Advocacy Coalition of Henderson County and several individual volunteers. Steering committee membership will be solicited from interested e-Community members and students served as well.


Digital LiteracyProject Coordinator/Designer: (1) to develop interactive bilingual (Spanish/English) website which presents, catalogs and serves courses in digital literacy to Latino residents of North Carolina; train volunteer mentors/classroom instructors in digital literacy curriculum; ability to work with steering committee and community volunteers required; background in educational setting or training strongly required. Must have multimedia background & solid professional experience overseeing the development interactive websites. Excellent written and oral communication skills required. Fluency in Spanish preferred but not essential.

Instructors (2-3 X 10 public access/lab sites): to mentor/instruct one-on-one with individuals and/or families and to teach digital literacy classes to small groups in community-based facilities around Western North Carolina. Mentors should be bilingual, but group instructors need not be bilingual, as volunteer interpreters are available. More highly skilled instructors will be asked to train volunteer instructors in classroom setting and with online support. Volunteer recruitment to be led by MAIN and steering committee representatives of local nonprofits.

Steering committee (8-30): to be comprised of volunteer members of local nonprofit and public service agencies serving Latino community. This group will help design curriculum and guide the work of the Project Coordinator in realizing an interactive digital literacy portal; to monitor the development of site and to work on e-committee to publicize and recruit volunteers from all sectors.






STEERING COMMITTEE: (These persons and organizations have expressed an interest in participating in this project. Many have provided letters of support for this grant.)

Ryan Kennedy

Emma Resource Center


Teresa Onofrio

bilingual midwife and birthing instructor

(828) 675-0780

(828) 682-6118 (w)

Burnsville, NC

Ana Fabian

Graham Childrens Health Services

of Toe River

(Yancey and Mitchell/Avery Counties)

(828) 682-7825

Sharon Bigger, publisher

El Eco newspaper

(828) 250-9094

Maria Martinez (Stahlsac Spanish interpreter)


(828) 645-3005 x 29 (work)

Magina Vernon

teaches Spanish digital literacy at AB Tech

(828) 258-3638

Kay Manley

AB TECH Human Resources
(ESL Digital Literacy program)

(828) 254-1921 x 334

Edna Campos

ALAS, Latino Advocacy Group

(828) 277-1797

Valerie Burress
Blue Ridge Reading Team

(Yancey/Avery/Mitchell Literacy Council)

(828) 688-4125

Nan Loyer

Haywood Literacy Council

(828) 452-1695

Victor Ruiz

Centro Encuentro Familiar

(828) 423-6196

Simon Madrigal, executive director

Latino Advocacy Coalition of Henderson Co.

(828) 693-1981

David White

Western Carolina Community Action

Brevard, NC

(828) 884-3219

Jeannette Butterworth

Center for Participatory Change

of Western North Carolina

(828) 694-0792

Paul Castelloe

Center for Participatory Change

of Western North Carolina

(828) 299-9437


Diantha Stevenson, office secretary


Yancey County Literacy Council

Robert Brant, VP