Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Courtesy photo)

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East St. Louis native and Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee can attest to the importance of having the proper tools for training and a supportive team of coaches in order to perform at the highest possible level.

Now, for the second year, the woman voted by Sports Illustrated as “the Greatest Female Athlete of All Time” has teamed up with Comcast in efforts to spread the word about the company’s Internet Essentials Program — helping low-income families and seniors cross the digital divide.

Joyner-Kersee, serving as Internet Essentials’ national spokesperson, has joined David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast Corporation, with the two recently embarking on a multi-city tour that continues through October designed to educate and engage more youth, families and seniors about Comcast’s acclaimed initiative.

As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program, Internet Essentials has connected more than four million low-income Americans to high-speed Internet service at home. But Cohen says Comcast wants to reach even more families.

“We can’t make this a success with a press release,” Cohen said. “The secret sauce is it’s an integrated, holistic program with over 9,000 partners, elected officials, libraries, PTAs, you name it.”

“The tours will help us engage with several thousand influencers in cities like Miami and parts of California who we want to then go back to their communities and talk about the program. The key to Internet Essentials’ success has been word of mouth — creating an echo chamber in the low-income family community where the conversation is about Internet access.”

“When we started this program six years ago, we never imagined four million low-income Americans would benefit from it,” Cohen added. “Of course, we can’t visit every city and state represented by our footprint, but we have targeted as many as we can. We want to grow the connections. So, don’t be surprised if you see me show up in the District with Jackie. She’s so amazing with children and senior citizens that wherever we go, people get excited about our program. They want to know more,” he said.

“While we have amazing stats, I have to stress that 98 percent of our participants say with Internet Essentials, their children are better equipped to do their homework and they’re doing better in school. In city after city, parents and children are sharing their stories. They tell us how much having Internet access has improved the quality of their lives,” Cohen said.

Joyner-Kersee said she’s seen how much the program has impacted families in ways both big and small.

“Some senior citizens live alone and can’t travel much. But with the Internet, now they can connect with their grandchildren and other family members — loved ones who they haven’t been able to see for years. Now they’re in awe at how easy it is to reach out and touch them.”

“As for youth, in today’s world having the Internet at home is essential. It helps them do their homework, complete term papers, and stay abreast of the latest news. And parents benefit from it too because they can check on their children’s school attendance and grades.”

“This is a must for families and they should not be left out just because they may be low-income. If you’re not computer savvy these days, you will be left behind.”

“Back home in East St. Louis, I have formed my own foundation and community center where I work with children on a daily basis. I don’t have any children of my own — but the hundreds that come to our center have embraced me as their mother. And I like that.”

“In my post-Olympic career, I’ve tried to inspire students and athletes to reach for their dreams. They can’t do that, however, if they don’t work hard or have the tools they need to succeed. The Internet Essentials program gives every child access to a level playing field so we don’t leave an entire generation behind,” Joyner-Kersee added.

For information about the program, go to www.InternetEssentials.com.

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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