Connect20 Success Story: Essential Families - Network:On

Connect20 Success Story: Essential Families

Published April 19, 2024

What does it take to bridge the digital divide and promote digital equity in your city? Essential Families, a nonprofit organization based out of Kansas City, Missouri set out to answer these questions – all through the transformative power of broadband.

Four years ago, Terri English-Yancy, with 30 years of childhood and family development experience, founded Essential Families with a mission to address the disparities that a lack of digital equity had caused in her hometown. She started with six “essential family” services – including new Chromebook distribution, computer literacy training, and healthcare support – which were designed and built to stabilize children and families, leveraging affordable and reliable broadband. To ensure these services would scale to any rural or urban community, Terri tapped her husband, Kenneth P. Yancy – a computer industry veteran with 40 years of experience in software development – for help. 

Some of the organization’s most impactful work has been through health care. Essential Families provides telehealth and mental health services for youth and adults online and via the phone, and the organization was able to partner with a wide network of physicians, therapists, and other healthcare professionals in the wake of the pandemic. With many Missouri hospitals at risk of closure – especially in rural areas – the need for these remote options is greater than ever.

Essential Families also provides job training programs for the digital workforce, designed to enable their members to engage in the 21st-century economy. Many of their past participants have been brought on as digital navigators, helping others to overcome their challenges, and paying forward the help they have received. What started as a grant from the Kauffman Foundation for 69 families has grown into a widespread success story, with the ripple effect of trained leaders helping their communities. Currently, there is a waitlist of around 1200 individuals looking to utilize their programs.

By harnessing the transformative power of broadband, Essential Families has not only provided access to essential services like health care and job training but has also empowered individuals to become agents of change within their own communities. However, nearly 20% of Americans do not have a home broadband connection – and it’s stories like these that show us why it’s so important to #Connect20.

Essential Families Digital Navigators IN ACTION

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