Student Spotlight: Mir Enayatullah Mosawi

Mir Enayatullah Mosawi speaks at a World Refugee Day Celebration

Having been in Rochester, NY less than six months, Afghan native Mir Enayatullah Mosawi is relatively new to the area. However, the United States of America is no stranger to him.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, Mosawi spent close to nine years supporting the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He was able to immigrate to the United States through a Special Immigrant Visa because of his work with the Army and is now a student at OACES where he’s working on English “…in order to learn English like native speaker” and applying digital literacy skills.

When asked “What does digital literacy mean to you?” Mosawi noted:

As per my opinion, digital literacy (DL) is our knowledge, understanding and ability from technologies in order to get them used efficiently for our needs and improvement. The more we have knowledge of technologies the better… Basically, DL allow us to make communication, facilitate our daily tasks and be in touch with family, friends and loved ones around all over the world. It is my deeply understanding that with advanced DL we can bring a whole new look to our world and our lives.

He credits his computer and internet skills with allowing him to look for employment, apply for a job, and feel comfortable completing on-the-job tasks. “As I have good computer knowledge with computer I’ll be able to do my OACES assignments, update my resume the way that employers accept it and do research regarding employment environment, United States culture and job hunting.” he says.

At our World Refugee Day Celebration on June 20, Mosawi was interviewed by WXXI where he spoke about his experience including how local organizations and programs such as Digital Literacy are helping him reach his goals in the United States.

Refugees and Immigrants with Digital Literacy Skills Benefit the Community and Local Resources

Digital literacy is the ability to find, create, and share information using a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

It is becoming essential to be digitally literate in the United States of America no matter who you are or where you came from.

As refugees and immigrants build new lives, they often need to complete tasks requiring technology and the internet. Tasks such as:

  • Searching and applying for jobs
  • Accessing government materials and services
  • Looking and signing up for community-based services
  • Connecting with their or their child’s school
  • Learning and practicing English
  • Workforce training/On-the-job responsibilities
  • Managing finances

Being digitally literate also makes it easier to stay connected with family and friends whether it be through email, social media, or video chat.

These types of self-sufficiency positively affect everyone, not just the individual. According to National Immigration Forum, building digital literacy and other basic skills through adult education

…have economic and social public benefits. For example, states’ return on investment studies show that adult education programs can lead to increases in tax revenue, business productivity and consumer spending as well as decreased reliance on public assistance programs and government health care spending. Public social benefits include the increased ability to adapt to and use technology, and appreciation of diversity.*

Yet, many immigrants and refugees lack basic computer skills. This is where Literacy Rochester’s Digital Literacy program comes into play. Our trained volunteers work with individuals to improve their digital skills.

We teach adults computer skills and assist with completing computer-based tasks for free on a drop-in basis at various locations in and around Rochester, NY (click here for a full list of sites and schedules).

We would not be able to help create a connected, digitally literate community on our own – partnerships are key. Digital Literacy is grateful to partner with OACES as well as collaborate with other organizations such as Refugees Helping Refugees and Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach to help immigrants and refugees develop digital competency.

*Source: National Immigration Forum (2016, November 4). SKILLS AND TRAINING FOR NEW AMERICANS: CREATING A THRIVING ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US (pg. 3). Retrieved from  

Student Spotlight: Nabila Qadiri Kohistani

Nabila Qadiri Kohistani, an Afghanistan native, has been in Rochester since early April of 2019 and is studying English while working on digital literacy at OACES.  She participated on a student panel on June 20 as part of a World Refugee Day Celebration.

She was also selected to receive a laptop in a giveaway that was co-sponsored by the Office of Adult & Career Education Services (OACES) and Digital Literacy as a way to commemorate local refugees’ perseverance and growth as well as foster self-reliance by removing barriers to success through digital literacy.   

When asked “What does digital literacy mean to you?” Kohistani responded, “For me, digital literacy is the most important and sustainable key for success, as digital literacy is the most valuable tool for lifelong learning nowadays. The young generation is interested in using mobile and computer and digital literacy is the best way to provide the opportunities for lifetime learning.”

Although digital literacy is a new concept to her, she is picking it up quickly, learning new technologies and skills to “improve my communication and networking skills and also get proper knowledge of job market in Rochester.”

Kohistani hopes to take what she’s learned about digital literacy at OACES back to Afghanistan in order to help young girls cultivate their skills and become more digitally literate.

In the meantime, she plans to use the laptop to continue her studies and improve her English, writing, and listening skills so that she is prepared for the job market in Rochester.

Student Spotlight: Yamila Gonzalez Cabeza

Yamila Gonzalez Cabeza (center) sits on a student panel, answering questions during a World Refugee Day Celebration.

Congratulations to Yamila Gonzalez Cabeza for being selected to receive a laptop at the World Refugee Day Celebration held on June 20, 2019 at OACES on 30 Hart Street. The giveaway was sponsored by the Office of Adult & Career Education Services (OACES) and Digital Literacy as a way to celebrate local refugees’ perseverance and growth as well as foster self-reliance by removing barriers to success through digital literacy. Gonzalez Cabeza also participated on a student panel where she shared her story.

Gonzalez Cabeza is an OACES student at Refugees Helping Refugees where she studies English and works on digital literacy skills.

When asked “What does digital literacy mean to you?” Gonzalez Cabeza responded, “Digital literacy means finding information (for example, the history of the United States) and using the computer or phone. Sometimes this is more convenient and cheaper than buying books. Digital literacy is also important because all people can have access to information if they have the internet and a computer.”

She has learned typing, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, email, social media (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram), and how to search on Google.

She says, “These things have helped me a lot because I can learn a lot and have access to all information quickly and easily (for example, weather, bus schedule, Google Maps, etc.). Through email and social media I can connect to more people (including my family) and not be isolated. Computer skills can also help me with my job search (making a resume, email etc.).”

Getting here was not easy. Starting her journey in Cuba, Gonzalez Cabeza had to go through eight different countries, including Brazil and Panama, before arriving in the United States 15 months ago. Passing through the Amazon proved to be a nightmare in and of itself; Gonzalez Cabeza was bitten by fire ants, requiring medical attention before she could continue on.

Currently in the United States without family nearby, Gonzalez Cabeza says having a computer of her own would “help me because I could study and talk to my family anytime, day or night. I wouldn’t have to go to the library or school and spend a lot of time making those trips by bus.”

More than anything Gonzalez Cabeza is grateful for the freedom she has in the United States to study and live. She hopes to be a teacher, assisting others with their English skills one day.

Thousands of RCSD students to get free home internet

The Rochester City School District will offer free home internet access to any high school student who lacks it beginning in September, it announced Monday; the culmination of a years-long campaign to bring all district students into the internet age.

RCSD was chosen to participate in the 1Million Project Foundation, affiliated with telecommunication provider Sprint. Every student lacking reliable home internet access will be given a MiFi hot spot with 10 gigabytes of high-speed data per month, then an unlimited amount of data at a slower speed after that.

RCSD Chief Information Officer Annmarie Lehner estimated that more than 4,000 students in grades 9-12 will receive the devices in the fall. The mobile hot spots can be used in conjunction with district-owned Chromebook laptops, which are now provided to every student in the classroom.

The plan will cost the district nothing and has no end date, with each incoming class of ninth graders getting hot spots if they need them.

Read More…

Refugee Recognition in Our Area

In honor of World Refugee Day, several local refugees and organizations received honors from the Rochester City School District’s Office of Adult and Career Education Services and Literacy Volunteers of Rochester’s Digital Literacy Program.

A few refugees shared stories about their hard-earned paths to their new home.

WXXI News Report

13 WHAM News Report

Two students were selected to each receive a laptop, mouse, USB drive and laptop bag.

Read More…

World Refugee Day Celebration & Laptop Giveaway

According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are more than 25 million refugees in the world today. Thousands of refugees have resettled in Rochester over the years.

In an effort to draw attention to the plight of refugees around the world while commemorating their courage and resilience, UNHCR established World Refugee Day, an international observance taking place on June 20 each year.

On Thursday June 20, 2019, Digital Literacy, a program of Literacy Volunteers of Rochester, and the Office of Adult & Career Education Services (OACES), a division of the Rochester City School District, hosted a World Refugee Day Celebration to show support for refugees in Rochester as well as honor local organizations whose efforts are changing lives.

The event began with an overview of the refugee journey by Lisa Hoyt, Director, Refugee & Immigration Services at Catholic Family Center. She noted that, in 2018, the United States was one of the top ten resettlement countries and that Catholic Family Center assisted more than 250 refugees who arrived in Rochester from 16 different countries. Hoyt observed that although there has been a significant decline in refugee resettlement locally as well as nationally over the past few years, it is still imperative that we provide refugees with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and enrich their adopted homeland. 

Paul Burke, Director of OACES, recognized Catholic Family Center and its Refugee Resettlement Program as well as Refugees Helping Refugees, Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach, The Community Place of Greater Rochester, and Literacy Volunteers of Rochester for their work.  Burke underscored the importance partnerships play when it comes to meeting the needs of adults in Rochester, especially as it relates to Literacy Zones, a statewide reform initiative designed to provide pathways to a better life through literacy, education, workforce preparation, citizenship, and English language proficiency programs.

Seven refugees from Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo sat on a student panel to share their stories. Two students – Yamila Gonzalez Cabeza of Cuba and Nabila Qadiri Kohistani of Afghanistan – were selected to each receive a laptop, mouse, USB drive and laptop bag. The giveaway was sponsored by OACES and Digital Literacy as a way to celebrate local refugees’ perseverance and growth as well as foster self-reliance by removing barriers to success through digital literacy. OACES students entered to win one of two laptops by filling out a brief survey asking them to describe what they’re learning and how owning a computer would help them. 

Brenda Zornow, Digital Literacy Director at Literacy Volunteers of Rochester, also acknowledged the service partnerships provide saying “We are here today to celebrate the empowerment of refugees in our area.  When community organizations come together to create partnerships we allow refugees to fulfill their goals and to feel more secure and at ease in their new communities.” She echoed the importance of resettling refugees and helping them integrate into their new community, stating “We all benefit from the diversity in our neighborhoods, our workforce, and from the shared skills and experiences of the refugees who are able to find a new home in our area.”

Why San Jose Kids Do Homework in Parking Lots

When the F.C.C. backs telecommunications companies over local governments, low-income residents suffer the most.

By Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, CA
New York Time Opinion, November 8, 2018

More than 10.7 million low-income households in the United States lack access to quality internet service. In cities like San Jose, Calif., local governments are using streetlight poles to facilitate equitable access to high-speed internet to dramatically improve educational outcomes for low-income students and expand economic opportunity for their families. Unfortunately, a recent mandate by the Federal Communications Commission might halt the progress made by these cities.

Read more …

The Unknown Costs of the Digital Divide

Iowa: Rural broadband, and the unknown costs of the digital divide

By Lyz Lenz, October 15, 2018, Columbia Journalism Review

“Despite bipartisan support on the issue, the crisis of America’s digital divide has failed to become a headline grabber or garner any real action from politicians as midterms approach.”

The last time I almost died was in February. A late winter thaw had made me overconfident in the roads, and so I’d gone out in search of an abandoned pioneer church just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One hour into the journey and I was stuck on a dirt road, my Mazda caught in an icy rut as sleet came down in sheets. There was no one around for miles. My phone, which has the fanciest data plan Verizon can muster, had no service, no data. I couldn’t see any houses. There was no one to hear me scream. Read more …

Critical Thinking & Digital Problem Solving

by Gloria  E. Jacobs, Ph.D., Research Specialist, College of Education, University of Arizona: Brian Kane is the Digital Literacy Coordinator at Literacy Volunteers of Rochester. The Digital Literacy program at LVR provides a free drop-in service where individuals can learn basic computer skills or get assistance completing  computer-essential tasks. This service is provided by volunteers who work one-to-one with learners. Brian read our blog and asked, “What’s the difference between critical thinking and problem solving? Or, are they essentially the same thing?”   Read more …