Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Angel Aracena
M.A., Director of Educational Technology for West Farms Technology & Career Center, Bronx

Aracena: Good afternoon members of the panel and Honorable NYC Council Members, my name is Angel Aracena, M.A., and I am here representing Phipps Community Development Corporation. I am the Director of Educational Technology at the West Farms Technology & Career Center.

My job is to ensure that the members of the Bronx community, where I am situated, have access to the Internet and computer classes such as Microsoft Office applications, Photoshop and other media software, Internet and e-mail training, and open lab access to our computers.

West Farms services 500 people a week through a variety of programs housed in the same building that include an Employment Program, an ESL & Literacy Program, and the Educational Technology Program. It is the dynamic interplay between these programs that sustains our center as a necessary community resource hub resulting in high retention rates of students and clients seeking computer and Internet training. Not only is the Educational Technology Program a stand-alone program that offers bilingual classes, it also supports and is responsible for integrating technology into our other programs.

The West Farms Technology & Career Center also has its own web site (, apart from Phipps Houses, our parent company, and is approaching 4000 visits a month. WFTCC has proven itself to be a valuable dynamic resource for the community it serves directly and for many people throughout the Bronx and New York City, for we also have students that commute from Queens, as deep as Bayside, and all parts of Manhattan to receive our free services. Phipps can continue to provide these services with the support of government grants and funds so that we may duplicate our proven model and most especially, improve our Internet and technology services and classes.

To cut short my testimony, I am also here to offer my recommendations when the city moves forward with accessible and affordable Broadband access for all of New York City. I think it’s a great idea to make Broadband Internet access affordable and more available. However, not only do our students stand to benefit greatly from such widespread availability of broadband, this access also presents dangers of which we hear of so often in the media in the form of tragedies. Broadband should be set up with safety parameters and to also include classes and training for parents and professionals on the dangers of the Internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 1 in 7 young people are sexually solicited or approached online (Source). We must do more to ensure the safety of our city’s youth as we progress into a technological culture.

My last recommendation stems from my experience working at WFTCC. Childcare is an obstacle that prevents parents and single parents from taking advantage of community resources. If more childcare services were available to parents, the amount of people the West Farms Technology & Career Center could service would increase tremendously. Thank you.

Facilitator; David Birdsell: Thank you for your comments. Are there any questions for Mr. Aracena?

Hon. Brewer: Phipps Houses is a great organization and I commend the work that you’re doing. Could you please tell us what percentages of the people you serve have computers and Internet access at home and do you feel these services are necessary?

Aracena: Some 60% of our students and clients have computers but only 25% of them are able to pay for and sustain an Internet connection. For the students in our city and the parents that work hard for them, access to affordable Internet services is crucial for them.