Nonprofit Helps Bridge Digital Divide in Southeast Los Angeles County

Edison International partnered with the Southeast Community Development Corporation at a recent technology expo.

For the past five weeks, Gabby Gascon has been busy building a robot for a neighborhood competition. So far she’s made it talk, yell a cheer and spin around in circles. It can also dance for 30 seconds.

Gabby is 9 years old.

“My mom wanted to sign me up and that’s why I’m here,” said the fourth-grader, who showcased her creation at the Southeast Community Development Corporation’s Summer Tech Expo. “It’s so much fun to do this.”

Gascon was one of dozens of kids ages 6 through 11 who took part in the nonprofit’s friendly competition, an organization sponsored in part by Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison.

The Southeast Community Development Corporation has worked to promote the community’s well-being, including education and economic development, since 1994. The nonprofit is located in Bell, a city where Hispanics make up more than 93 percent of the population, and focuses its efforts on southeast Los Angeles County

Video Credit: Ernesto Sanchez

In addition to its popular computer recycling center, the nonprofit has a computer training program and helps 1,200 youth and adults every year.

“We are reducing the digital divide here in Southeast Los Angeles,” said Cesar Zaldivar-Motts, executive director of the Southeast Community Development Corporation. “We are making sure that everyone has equal access to the internet, has training, has access to a computer.”

Laura Genao, SCE director of Regulatory Affairs, grew up in Bell just a few blocks from the nonprofit’s community center.

Recently, she and other Edison International volunteers — including members of the company’s Hispanic-focused employee resource group LEAD — met the students and helped judge the robotics competition. “Events like this are a great way to get out and see communities that are in our service territory,” she said. “Seeing the kids here who will hopefully grow up to work for Edison and be our employees in the future.”

The nonprofit notes that the high school graduation rate is about 65 percent in southeast Los Angeles County. And one of three students do not graduate with a high school degree.

That’s why one of the Southeast Community Development Corporation’s goals is to encourage an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) and to pursue a college degree in the various STEM fields among its participants.

It’s heartening to see the young generation getting educated in STEM, said California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who spoke at the event.

“Investment in these communities is essential,” he said, noting that Bell is part of his district. “I want to thank the Southeast Community Development Corporation and Southern California Edison for all of the work they are doing in terms of helping to close the digital divide.”

And Gascon is one of the students benefiting from this collaborative effort.

At 9 years old, she’s already planning her career, deciding between a future as a structural or electrical engineer.

“I’m looking at all of this stuff that I like to do that has to do with electricity and everything is so much fun,” said Gascon. “If I’m going to work for any engineering company, I am going to work for SCE.”