On Aug. 31, about 50 Black girls premiered their digital commercials of Black-owned businesses affected by the pandemic, after participating in a free digital literacy education summer program sponsored by AT&T in partnership with 3 D’s Daycare and Toddewood Studio.
Four Black-owned businesses took part in the program, including Swirl Bliss in Baldwin, a frozen yogurt shop; Sweet & Savory Café in Baldwin, a family-owned cafe; Quintessential Boutique in Oceanside, a clothing shop; and, StrongHER Personal Training in West Hempstead, a personal training business focused on women.
The girls, ranging in ages from 8 to 12, who come from across the county, took a digital content development crash course, learning skills in interviewing, directing, stage management, lighting, and video recording and editing, while trying their hands at the latest technology in the industry.
“I’m proud of myself that I got to finish this program,” said Emilie Thainabagal, 10, who was in charge of various tasks, including editing, directing and interviewing. “This program got a lot of people to get out there and ask more questions and learn about more people, and that confidence will help me in the future.”
Elaina Parteis, 8, who was the camera person this summer and wants to be an actress when she grows up, said her favorite part was filming on location at Swirl Bliss because, she noted, “It was so much fun and delicious!” She thought she didn’t look like herself on screen.
Likewise, Aaliyah Nagi-Boykin, 12, aspires to be an actress (or an engineer). Of her experience in video editing and then watching herself on camera, she said, “It made me uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time … but I had fun.”
Tricia Messeroux, chief executive of Toddlewood Studios and a veteran of Madison Avenue video productions, emphasized the importance of introducing young people to the technology industry. “It’s not going anywhere—there’s social media, there’s podcasts, there’s animation,” she said.
Dr. Zodelia Williams, founder of 3 D's Aftercare, discussed how this program not only benefits the children, but also businesses that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. “This new normal means that together we have to move onward and upward,” she said.
The eight-week AT&T Junior Digital Content Creator Program is part of the company's $2 billion effort to bridge the digital and homework gap by emphasizing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) in populations that have been historically underserved in these study and career areas.
Baldwinite Magdalonie Paris-Campbell, AT&T's Long Island area manager of state legislative and regulatory affairs, said this was her first philanthropic initiative. “The skill set for technology is not given to everyone,” she said.
According to a 2021 Pew Research study, those with lower incomes are less likely to have access to broadband services, smart phones, desktops, tablets and computers. The digital divide widened during the pandemic as children engaged in remote schooling. This inequity reflects the current racial underrepresentation in the technology sector, where in 2020 only 16 percent of employees were minorities, 14 percent of whom were Asian, according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission Bureau.
When asked what lesson this program taught, Paris-Campbell said, “What corporate partnership does with community businesses. If we continue to bridge that gap with collaboration, we can see more stories like this.” She said the company will tailor programs to host communities, so Paris-Campbell encourages local organizations to reach out at Magdalonie.Paris-Campbell@att.com.
The viewing event was held on the 3 D premises and was attended by parents, children and business owners, as well as AT&T NY President Amy Hines-Kramer, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin. Assemblywoman Taylor Darling also took part in an interview with the girls, which was filmed and screened at the event.