San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and former NFL coach Tony Dungy kicked off the second year of a program that provides Internet access for low-income families throughout the Bay Area and nationwide at the Comcast Youth Summit this morning at the University of California at San Francisco.

The one-day summit, attended by hundreds of middle and high school students from school districts in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and beyond the Bay Area, focused on cyber-bullying and the “digital divide,” or the limited access to technology for some families, at the conference center at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” program is continuing to provide Internet access to low-income homes at the price of $9.95 per month and with vouchers for discounted computers. The program also provides resources to increase digital literacy.

At the conference late this morning San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee touted the program, which, through the San Francisco Unified School District and other educators statewide, is connecting more families to online resources and tools.

“We have to give you all the tools to be successful,” Lee told the crowds of schoolchildren seated in rows across the conference room.

He said roughly 4,000 students were connected to the Internet in the past year in San Francisco because of the program.

He touched on the “digital divide” preventing youth from reaching their potential.
“If you can’t get connected,” the mayor said, “you are going to be left behind.”

Devin Bradshaw, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Oakland Military Institute, said during the lunch break that Lee got him fired up about using the Internet and computers for job searches and research, but the highlight of the morning session was listening to Internet Essentials spokesman and former NFL coach Dungy.

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach emphasized the connection between learning, opportunity and technology.

He said it is important to be able “to process information” in order to “keep up with the rest of the world.”

Dungy shared with students how his own children use the Internet to apply for jobs and are enrolled in some online college courses.

“You do need to be that savvy and understand how that works,” he said about technology.

Earlier in the morning a panel of tech experts covered issues including cyber-bullying, a worryingly increasing trend with the proliferation of social media.

Valley Charter High School freshman Marissa Martinez-Reyna, 15, said the story one student shared on the panel about his experience with being bullied online resonated with her.

She said she has been cyber-bullied before, both through text messages and online, and that “it gets worse in high school.”

Her classmate from the Modesto school, 13-year-old Britani Murphy also said cyber-bullying is something that happens often on Facebook and other social media, but that she avoids being the perpetrator.

The summit continued until about 1:30 p.m. with a technology expo for students and educators.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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