Glenn Stein has devoted himself to addressing the critical need for computer skills in low-income, inner-city neighborhood residents. He founded and manages an organization called Byte Back, which has provided computer-training classes to more than 700 D.C. residents since 1997.
Stein, a computer professional, realized that there is room in the technology sector for computer-literate individuals at all levels, as long as they possess the necessary skills. He saw that there was no organization to provide opportunities for people to receive that kind of computer education. Stein expanded this core concept into a project to which he contributed thousands of hours of personal time and tens of thousands of dollars to develop. He single-handedly crafted the curriculum, acquired computer hardware, established relationships with other community organizations that provide classroom space and recruited volunteer teachers. As the director, he usually contributes 30 to 40 hours to the organization each week, while maintaining a full-time job.
Stein’s efforts to develop Byte Back into a productive organization have paid off. Six Byte Back training sites operating throughout low-income neighborhoods in Washington host more than 30 classes each week and provide 300 students with weekly instruction. Classes cover various levels of advancement in computer basics, Windows, word processing, spreadsheets and the Internet. To date, nearly 750 students have passed the basic class and nearly 450 have passed upper level classes. An internship program, with a current enrollment of 22, provides more intensive and accelerated training in advanced skills to selected individuals.
The other half of Byte Back's success, however, is the programs’ numerous ongoing volunteer opportunities. These opportunities allow individuals from different backgrounds to reach out and help inner-city residents to bridge the technology gap that exists in many communities. Glenn Stein has applied a grassroots, innovative strategy to mobilize volunteers for his program and address the unmet educational needs within his community.