Daniel Kent’s Net Literacy Donates Over 20,000 Computers
Daniel’s amazing effort in promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion has caused him to have significant influence with a number of government officials, who through Daniel’s suggestion has enacted resolutions that would help expand the coverage of digital literacy and digital inclusion.
The Net Literacy organization has been endorsed by numerous Internet associations (represented by over 270,000 Internet companies on six continents), who endorse the Net Literacy’s digital literacy best practices website, and Daniel has been an author for several ‘white papers’ on technology issues, such as Broadband Adoption, Digital Literacy, and Inclusion.
Apart from this, Daniel, through his active involvement in the affairs of Net Literacy, has been key in contributing to teaching job and life skills to over 3,500 student volunteers, and has donated over 20,000 computers to people who do not have access to them.
Daniel Kent’s Achievements
As a result of his unrelenting support and fight for the right to digital literacy and inclusion, Daniel has been recognized as a youth world leader in the area of technological advancement. He has received a number of awards and recognitions for his services, which include winning a Jefferson Award for Public Service, the President’s Volunteer Service Award (which Daniel received from the then sitting President George W. Bush), a Daily Points of Light Award, and a Citizen of the Year Award.
Daniel has also been included in the list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America, and the 10 Young Activists Changing the World by Complex Media. These recognitions simply prove just how great the achievements Daniel has been able to accomplish in just a span of around ten years, which is extraordinary for an organization that was founded by students.
Net Literacy’s work in digital literacy and digital inclusion is not just focused on students and the youth; Daniel’s main aim in founding Net Literacy was to bridge the great divide between the older and younger generations through the use of the Internet.
Daniel knows and firmly believes that the opportunity of net literacy is something that should be available to all, and that in this growing digital age, one would be able to learn faster with the aid of the Internet. Daniel said once in an interview:
“Net Literacy started from a realization that Internet illiteracy is not a just a phenomenon applied to senior citizens, it's prevalent throughout our entire society. We initially identified a couple of segments of the population—elementary school students whose families are on public assistance, section 8 HUD housing, and a couple of others—who also lack either computer access or lack computer training. In addition to that, one of our main focuses recently has been on the aspect of computer safety.”
Through working with numerous young individuals throughout his career, Daniel realized that serving one’s community is a desire that every individual has on the inside and with proper leading and guidance, that desire can manifest and be put into use for the good of the community. Daniel saw that through increasing the awareness of being socially responsible, young people manifest the desire of serving their community thereby becoming agents of change. Daniel often writes in his blogs:
“Community service is becoming an increasingly integral part of primary and secondary education because educators realize that it develops youth by creating social awareness, teaching life skills, and instilling civic responsibility. And students around the world are increasingly becoming social entrepreneurs as they identify needs in their communities and then leverage their individual skills to make a difference as agents of change.”
Daniel also understands that due to the unlimited potential of the Internet, there is an increasing need for online safety. He stated in an interview:
“In high school and in middle school, a lot of us take a health class and learn to stay safe and physically fit, but what they don't teach us is how to stay safe on the Internet. Now you hear so many horrible stories like on “Dateline” and all the other news programs about kids our age being taken advantage of on the Internet when they are absolutely innocent and don't know how to avoid the predators and sometimes how to just act courteously on the Internet. Through that desire to gain awareness, we created another organization called Safe Connects.”
Protecting Internet users from things that can affect their mental and moral health has been one of Daniel’s advocacies, and through his work with Net Literacy, he has, in a way, become significant in helping create the awareness of online safety.
Promoting Digital Literacy and Inclusion
Daniel’s passion in promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion stems from the realization of the great potential that the Internet has in affecting the lives of people. Ever since the Internet became popular, there have been some who would use it to spread evil and unwholesome things, but Daniel saw it the other way around.
If one can use something as powerful as the Internet for bad, then how much more would it make a change if it was used for something good and profitable for everyone? Daniel has said this in an interview:
“I've been working with computers since I was really young, so I thought that this would be a really good idea for me... When the digital generation takes on real-world challenges, it gives students a preview of life's complexity and helps us develop our critical-thinking skills.”
Daniel Kent’s Biography
Daniel Kent was born in 1988. As a young child, Daniel developed an early interest in technology, especially computers. In fact, as early as four years old, Daniel was already into computers a lot that he would spend tinkering with the software—at first, he just ‘messed’ around with the keyboard, but as he grew older, Daniel started to actually work out the specifics of the programs that were installed in the computer.
Daniel’s passion for computers was in part influenced by both of his grandfathers. Daniel’s maternal and paternal grandfathers both owned computers and were very interested in technology. However, due to the increasing advancement in computer development, there were some things that Daniel’s grandparents were not able to catch up. A good example was the e-mail, which came into popularity around Daniel’s elementary years.
Wanting to always stay in touch with his grandparents became one of Daniel’s motivations in learning more about computers and the Internet, which became a foundation to the greater things that he would later on do. Daniel said in an interview many years later:
“For me personally… both of my grandfathers are very tech-savvy, they both have computers, but not up to using e-mail. I really wanted to remain in contact with them. So now I can e-mail back and forth with them. Additionally, we know how crucial, how integral technology is in our world. Meanwhile, their world is often getting smaller; they're having their keys taken away and so on.”
A Passionate Volunteer Teacher
Fortunately for the growing Daniel, he had parents who always supported him and loved him in every way. When Daniel’s parents started noticing his interest in computers, they encouraged Daniel to pursue his passion and helped him in every way to improve his knowledge and skill in using computers.
As a student, Daniel exhibited extraordinary talent and intellect. He was among the best students in his class, and his teachers would often praise him for being able to quickly catch up in his subjects. Daniel’s interest in computers was further honed by his diligence, and by the time he graduated from elementary he had excellent marks in all of his subjects.
When Daniel was in middle school, he engaged in a couple of extracurricular activities that enabled him to utilize his knowledge in computers and the Internet. Among these was being a volunteer teacher in a public library, where he taught both elementary school children and senior citizens computer and Internet skills.
Addressing Net Illiteracy
Sometime in 2003, he was visited by one of his previous senior citizen students who came back for a quick refresher on e-mailing, and as they chatted, Daniel soon realized that in spite of volunteer activities such as the one he was already in, there were still a lot of people who had problems in computer literacy. He related this in a blog that he wrote many years later:
“I was in middle school and a volunteer teaching elementary school children and senior citizens computer and Internet skills at my public library. One day after class, a senior citizen who I had been helping told me that he was grateful for the training that he received but that it was ‘a real shame’ that his mobility-impaired neighbors residing in his independent living facility could not attend class and learn to email their grandchildren.”
Daniel’s encounter with that senior citizen sparked a light bulb in Daniel. He sincerely wanted to help, but could not find any support back then as there were no organizations that focused in computer literacy. In an interview with him, Daniel said:
“I felt strongly, especially as a student, that nobody should be denied the opportunity to learn. Consequently, I looked around for an organization that could help this gentleman's friend. I promised to help but was unable to find any organization that would build computer labs in interdependent living facilities and teach seniors how to become digitally literate.”
Because he did not find any groups who were engaged in teaching the older generation about computers, Daniel decided to start one himself. In the next few days, Daniel met with some of his friends and discussed his dilemma as well as his plans to start an organization that would help the older generation keep up with current technology by focusing on computer literacy and inclusion.
Daniel Kent Founds Net Literacy and Helps Senior Citizens through Senior Connects
With the support of his family and friends in school, Daniel, who was in his eighth grade, established Net Literacy, an organization that aimed to increase digital literacy and inclusion. One of the organization’s first projects was Senior Support, which was aimed at bringing internet literacy to the senior citizens who were unable to visit training sessions.
Daniel’s plan for Senior Connects was to encourage high school and college students to visit independent living facilities to teach the senior citizens how to use the computer and the Internet so they can connect with their family members and friends, as well as keep up with day to day events.
Initially, Daniel had some apprehensions with regard to starting Senior Connects because he was not sure on how successful it would be and how many students would heed the call. In spite of the risk, Daniel and his classmates still pursued the project, believing that if someone started it, all others would be willing to follow. It was not an easy start, primarily due to the lack of computers on many retirement homes. In an interview made with Daniel many years later, he said:
“Initially, one of the greatest obstacles we faced was the fact that many retirement homes lacked computers. So we soon got into the business of refurbishing computers. We looked around for computer donations, from the library and a few other organizations and local companies. We also received donations of computer manuals from the library. And that was very helpful, because what we did was we did things like we increased the font size, made everything a little more senior friendly. And we eventually based our curriculum off of the manuals.”
Fortunately, Daniel found friends in various organizations that helped donate computers to these retirement homes.
Little did Daniel know back then how much of an impact he would have not just in the lives of those he planned to help, but also to those who volunteered their time and effort to Senior Connects. In a short time, the number of students that volunteered in teaching senior citizens grew, and Senior Connects was able to expand its reach to other retirement homes.
Daniel took active participation in Senior Connects, and personally taught a lot of the senior citizens. Many years later, Helen Lenke, who was one of Daniel’s first students, said of him:
“Now we don't have to sit around waiting for the undertaker. Daniel and his aides were patient, respectful, kind and successful in teaching us with a simple formula of his own to write e-mails, play poker, bridge, watch the news, search for bargains on the Internet, find pictures of my family receiving honors as professors of law and medicine and so much more.”
Daniel Takes Home BRICK Award for his Work in Net Literacy
It was truly an achievement for the young Daniel. By 2004, Senior Connects had given computer access to 61 living facilities (retirement homes), which served over 10,000 residents. That same year, Daniel was given the Daily “Points of Light” award for his efforts in increasing computer literacy. The following year, he received the BRICK Award. Within a span of three years, Net Literacy grew from a group of young students to a large organization.
In the first couple of years of its operation, Net Literacy was under the care of Daniel and the other students who joined the organization. The organization was initially managed completely by students, but as it grew larger, Daniel knew that he would need help from adults, who were more experienced in terms of running large organizations. Daniel said in an interview:
“Throughout the entire process, it was completely youth-managed, youth-serviced. It was completely youth-driven. All of our board members and executives were youth. But as we developed our 501(c) 3 status, we started to realize that minors can't really be held accountable for large sums of money. So we worked with a number of individuals that had some experience in youth empowerment and also in non-profit group construction. So we sort of created a partially-youth board/partially-adult board. It really actually turned out for the better because not only do the youths and adults work together but the youth frequently mentor the adults.”
Safe Connects and PEG
After graduating from middle school in 2007, Daniel enrolled at Haverford College to study growth and structure of cities. During this time, Daniel worked to further improve the coverage of Net Literacy’s projects, as he came to a realization that there was much to do when it came to educating people about computers and the Internet.
And so, through Net Literacy, Daniel started other projects, such as Safe Connects (which educated people about online safety and security), Computer Connects (which made it possible for people who lived in poorer areas to have computer access and training), and Youth Connects (which helped families with children who were in their elementary years that relied on public assistance to receive computer access and training).
As Net Literacy’s area of work expanded, its influence and recognition also flourished. In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed a Joint House Resolution that called for all PEG (Public Service Enterprise Groups) to carry the Safe Connects programming that Net Literacy created. That same year, Daniel received the Jefferson Public Service Award for his efforts in starting projects that promoted computer literacy and inclusion.
Net Literacy’s Financial Literacy Program Adopted by the Indiana Department of Education
The following year, the Indiana Department of Education adopted Net Literacy’s Financial Literacy program and encouraged the principals and superintendents of schools in the state to participate in the program. That same year, the United States Internet Industry Association and Broadband for America partnered with Net Literacy and conducted a Broadband Adoption Summit which discussed digital inclusion. Among those who attended that meeting were Internet Industry association representatives who endorsed the Digital Literacy “best practices” site by Net Literacy.
Net Literacy Goes Beyond Indiana
By 2010, Net Literacy has literally spread outside the state of Indiana, and has been known even to Internet organizations as far as Canada. Daniel stated:
“One of the main objectives is, we are creating the whole program so that it would be scalable and replicable, throughout communities in the United States, and even the world. We haven't really ourselves created branches throughout the United States and so forth, but we've received correspondence from individuals who maybe heard about our curriculum and wish to start their own branch. And we've received responses from everywhere from San Jose, California to Atlanta, Georgia, Syracuse, New York, and even Winnipeg, Canada.”
Daniel graduated from Haverford College in 2012 with high marks, and earned his bachelor’s degree in growth and structure of cities. Currently, he is a student of business administration in Yale University (at the Yale School of Management), and is looking to receive his master’s degree in 2015.
Daniel’s passion for bringing computer literacy to those who cannot afford it comes from the joy of seeing families being connected. Daniel’s parting words in an interview made with him was a story of one of his first students:
“One of our first students is Dr. Grinnan. He had a number of grandchildren that he was unable to stay in contact with very frequently because they lived pretty far away. He was one of the first individuals who signed up and he was very enthusiastic. At first he didn't know anything about computers except how to program the old mainframes, what he learned in college. He would always stay in front of the computer doing research—looking up medical conditions, e-mailing his grandchildren, even play card games online. Eventually, he got his own computer, so a lot of the residents were happy about that. It's just really awesome to not only help your community but also to make new friends with people who you might not ordinarily meet.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Net Literacy
- The National Digital Literacy Corps
- Senior Connects
- Safe Connects
Awards and Achievements
- 2004: Received the National Daily Points of Light Award
- 2005: Received the BRICK Award
- 2005: Received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from former President George W. Bush
- 2005: Received the National Prudential Spirit of Community Award
- 2006: Received the Kodak Young Leaders Scholarship Award
- 2006: Received the National Kindness Award from Senator Dole at the Caring Institute
- 2006: Received the Citizen of the Year Award
- 2009: Received the Jefferson Award for Public Service
- 2011: Named a Google Zeitgeist Young Mind
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America
- 2013: Included in the 10 Young Activists Changing the World list by Complex Media