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Local nonprofit Digital NEST rises to the challenges of COVID-19

People working at DigitalNEST including founder Jacob Martinez

(Contributed)

May 5, 2020 — Watsonville, CA

(Photo source: Digital NEST)

Digital NEST runs virtual programming, continues to provide high-touch one-on-one mentoring, and creates space for members to engage creatively

Digital NEST, a youth workforce development and empowerment center located in Watsonville and Salinas, CA, has moved all of their in-person classroom curriculum online, and has found new ways to support a community in need. Serving as a trusted local institution and community partner for the past five years, the NEST proactively reached out to the communities it serves to provide support in an attempt to help minimize the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff, volunteers and community supporters have emerged as leaders to step up to find innovative ways to help.

In light of the stay-at-home orders impacting in-person gathering and classes, Digital NEST immediately shifted its approach to run programming virtually with members, and continue to provide high-touch one-on-one mentoring, as well as create space for members to engage creatively during these unprecedented times. As staff and youth members connected frequently, NEST understood the urgent issues that were emerging in the community, and took immediate steps to create avenues to mitigate the impact COVID-19 will have on the underserved groups they serve in the local region.

“Local youth who participate in Digital NEST’s job training programming — both our career pathways programs and our bizzNEST on-the-job paid internship program — are disproportionately facing the challenges and effects of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19,” Digital NEST’s Deputy Director, Steve Bean, emphasized, “While we have taken our programs online, many of our members, who are predominantly low-income youth of color, lack basic access: they do not have high speed internet, up-to-date computer hardware, or a quiet space to study.”

Responding to an urgent need for students and their families to remain — and in some cases, become — connected, NEST staff and members developed several programs to support the community, including the following:

  • Computer Loans – NEST has hosted two computer lending stations at Watsonville’s Cabrillo Campus to lend laptops to high school and college students in need of proper equipment to participate in remote learning opportunities. 50 laptops have been distributed to students in need (40 in Watsonville and 10 in Salinas).
  • NESTaid – A COVID-19 Food Security Program for the families of NEST members with the goal of raising funds to directly distribute for basic needs of Watsonville and Salinas families.
  • NESTcorps – With the emergence of community needs during this time, Digital NEST is bringing together youth volunteers ages 14-24 to help during this COVID-19 crisis. NESTcorps came to fruition because of the high urgency to address problems that the community is facing. Projects include: working to provide quality video content for students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District; the Campesino Caravan of Appreciation is a caravan of advocacy and recognition of farmworkers as essential workers 

Additionally, bizzNEST has been enlisted for its digital agency capacities, including creating important projects addressing the Spanish-speaking community and small, locally-owned businesses:

  • COVID-19 Spanish PSA Video – Digital NEST’s on-the-job paid internship program, bizzNEST, produced a Spanish-language COVID-19 informational video for local community health organization, Salud Para La Gente. Viewers across the country have been impressed that youth member consultants did all of the editing, animation, and voice over for this timely video. View the video: https://vimeo.com/401461648
  • @831 Small Business Directory – Recognizing that many small businesses are still open (with limited or changed operating capacity), but lack a website to inform their patrons, the bizzNEST team, with support from Looker, are building a database to keep small, family-owned businesses in touch with their customers.

Alexandra Navarro, Director of bizzNEST, sees this as a win-win-win: for the youth gaining experience, local organizations getting high-quality digital products and for the community — particularly the Latinx community — staying informed. Navarro remarked,  “We are so proud of the amazing work our youth member consultants have produced in the spirit of uplifting their community in this difficult time. We also appreciate the opportunities that local companies and organizations have given us to show off the high quality of work our youth are able to produce – and for a good cause.”

Digital NEST continues to work with local youth, regional small businesses, and community organizations to develop new and innovative ways to engage youth, uplift families, and support Watsonville and Salinas during this time

About Digital NEST
Founded in 2014, Digital NEST is a nonprofit youth workforce development center that provides technical and essential “soft” skills training to prepare young people for academic success and the ability to prosper in the 21st Century workforce. Serving predominantly Latinx youth in the ag and rural communities of Salinas and Watsonville, CA, the NEST is a safe, collaborative space for youth between the ages of 14 to 24, and has connected more than 2,500 vulnerable youth to digital technology, skill-based, STEM-inspired training programs, and a transformative community of mentors and advocates. 

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