Plugged In was established in 1992 for the purpose of helping to close the Digital Divide in the city of East Palo Alto. East Palo Alto has always been a low income community with a higher unemployment rate - usually as much as three times higher - and a higher crime rate than the surrounding affluent communities such as Palo Alto and Atherton. In 1990, census figures indicated that the population was 41% African American, 36% Latino, 12% Caucasian, 9% Asian/Pacific Islanders and 2% "other." The 1990 census also indicated that 21% of the residents had incomes below the federal designated poverty level.




Even though East Palo Alto is in the center of the Silicon Valley, the residents are still struggling to get by on low paying and dead-end jobs. The scarcity of homes in the Valley has driven up housing costs even in EPA, causing many families to live from paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford many of the technological advances that most of the rest of Silicon Valley's residents take for granted. These factors, as well as the lack of any possibility to learn more about technology in the community, have caused the Digital Divide in East Palo Alto, and it is this Digital Divide that Plugged In is seeking to eliminate, or at least narrow. To this end, Plugged In was established, and they have created three programs whose goal is closing the divide in EPA.

How You Can Make a Difference
Our vision is that this discussion of the Digital Divide will prompt you to action so that you will do your part to narrow the gap. To this end, we have provided a tool for Stanford students to make themselves available to Plugged In as volunteers. The tool is called WebFocus, and you can
sign up for an account on the Plugged In website. When you sign up, you can fill out your profile to let Plugged In know what skills that you have, as well your contact information. Once you have signed up and logged in, you can change your volunteer information by clicking on the "Volunteer" button and specifying when you are available. You can also participate in discussions on various topics and answer questions that have been posted, either by the teenagers employed by Plugged In Enterprises or by other employees and volunteers of Plugged In. You can access WebFocus at

The Greenhouse
Plugged In Greenhouse is targeted at children aged six to twelve from the community. The vision of the Greenhouse workers is to create creative thinking producers in the technology community, not just consumers. Each day's activities are focused on the expression of creative arts, and part of each lesson plan involves the use of computers and the internet as a tool. The children enrolled in the program draw from their experience in the community to produce electronic works of art and poetry, such as a Virtual Gallery and a Virtual Book, which are then posted to Plugged In's web site. In the spirit of Plugged In, the cost of enrollment is merely $20, and this can be paid through 5 hours of adult volunteering at Plugged In.

The Technology Access Center
Another program that Plugged In runs is the
Technology Access Center, which provides members of all ages from the communities access to computers, the internet, and online information. Some of the resources at the center include: a community production studio, copy center, cyber-library, self-paced learning studio, and telecommunication booth. The Technology Access Center provides one on one help in achieving personal goals, rather than forcing participation in particular activities. They have organized special resource areas such as a job resources area, health related information, a small business starter kit, homework assistance information, and web design. They also provide specific help in job training and starting a small business.

Plugged In Enterprises
The third program that Plugged In runs is
Plugged In Enterprises, which trains teenagers from the community in web development skills. After being trained in these skills, the program partners the teens with local community and paying corporate organizations for whom they design web sites. A few of the clients for whom they have created web sites include Pacific Bell, Sun Microsystems, and the East Palo Alto Law Project. Volunteers from local organizations, such as Intel, Cisco Systems, and Macromedia, come to the center to help train the teens in various web technologies, such as HTML, Java, JavaScript. The program provides the teens with actual business experience, not just an exercise which has no real meaning. Students must demonstrate a high degree of proficiency in a number of business skills, such as the ability to work under deadlines, work with others in a high stress environment, and a willingness to learn and accept criticism. Many of the students have been able to use the skills that they have learned to get internships with local technology companies, and many of them plan to major in a technical field when they go to college.