DES MOINES, Iowa — Opening a laptop may seem simple but to the communities served by Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in Des Moines, it can be as foreign as a new language.

“Unfortunately for the majority of our communities that come in here the students actually know more than the parents do and that can be really frustrating,” said, Ahmed Agyeman, the center’s director. Agyeman says that is the case for too many parents in Des Moines’ underserved communities when the pandemic hit and schoolwork switched to online platforms.

To combat that issue the center is increasing the frequency of its “Digital Skills,” class to the community. “We go from level one to level three. Level one being very basic. Just how to turn the computer on and we have keyboarding classes built in also,” said Agyeman.

Some of Des Moines’ hardest hit in the digital divide were low-income, refugee, and minority communities in the Des Moines Public School District. “Chromebooks can be $150,” Agyeman said.

The eight-week classes can turn a barrier into a bridge of communication with their kid. Agyeman said, “To see the light go off and all the sudden they say ‘I can go help my son or daughter better’ is just great.”

The programs used in the Digital Skills class are some of the same programs students use within DMPS. Agyeman said, “They teach them how to use Google platform because yes that is really what DMPS is on.”

Classes come at no cost thanks in part to a strong partnership with Des Moines Area Community College and the United Way. For some who have enrolled in the Digital Skills class can lead to enrolling as a DMACC student or even employment in education. Agyeman said, “The skill level where the certification is actually recognized nationally where they could get clerical administrative assistant type jobs.”

To keep up with the city’s diverse culture classes are taught in English, Spanish and Swahili. Agyeman says learning to speak a computer’s language opens up universal opportunities. “Spoken language is very important but also language in terms of computer language because you need to learn how to use basic computers.”

Registration for Digital Skills is open to the public through Friday, September 2nd. Classes begin Tuesday, September 6th. To enroll or learn more about the program click here.