DAYTON, Ohio – AT&T has awarded the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce‘s young professional group, Generation Dayton, with $14,000 to help underserved families and individuals gain better access to internet.

Holly Allen, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chamber of Commerce, said the implications of the digital divide were made especially clear during the pandemic, pushing more companies to get on board to bridge the gap.

“As you can imagine, this is an initiative that has been really important to most of our telecommunications companies, but AT&T kind of saw that this was an initiative that the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce cared a lot about,” Allen said. “It came to the forefront during the pandemic, and so we kind of aligned those two interests in trying to tackle this issue.”

The organization of young professionals has already committed to making a difference in the community with their “Connect & Serve” program — volunteering at organizations across the Miami Valley that cater to populations experiencing limited access to internet and technology.

“It just makes sense to bring the Chamber’s young professional group, Generation Dayton, into the mix because it’s our young people who are going to be really utilizing technology in ways that we really haven’t even imagined,” Allen said. “And so educating our young professionals on this issue and how they can help, it just made sense for both the Chamber and AT&T’s Foundation.”

Allen said the funds will go toward not only educating volunteers on the technological needs of underserved populations, but also to helping connect those groups to resources that will get them access to internet service and devices. That volunteer work will focus primarily on rural, urban and low income households.

“If anyone sees this and is interested in helping, or has an interest in this issue, especially if they are a young professional, we encourage them to look into becoming a member of Generation Dayton because not only do they give back to the community, but it helps expand them as professionals and just become better human beings to give back to our community.

Some of the organization’s projects have already included “teaching computer skills and digital literacy” and “focusing on how families need to use the internet to fulfill their daily needs.” That work is expected to continue in the new year through quarterly volunteer opportunities and a professional development speaker series on issues related to the digital divide in the Dayton region.