Transforming Immigrant Digital Equity (TIDE)

Pilot Site Communities: Case Studies

From July 2022 to December 2023, the Transforming Immigrant Digital Equity (TIDE) project partnered with three pilot site communities across the United States: the Office of the Future of Work in Colorado, Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts, and Literacy for Life in Virginia. Together, we laid the groundwork for an ecosystem for equitable English language learning and digital resilience for adult immigrant and refugee learners. Through regular cohort calls and individualized guidance sessions, we focused on identifying and nurturing critical community partnerships, amplifying the voices of adult immigrant and refugee learners, and advocating for the inclusion of adult immigrants and refugees in State Digital Equity Plans. Additionally, each pilot site received $50,000 from World Education to support their involvement in the project.

While the three pilot sites shared a common vision and values, their unique roles within their communities led to contrasting approaches. The following case studies include insights, lessons learned, and future opportunities for each site. We extend our deepest gratitude to all three pilot sites for their collaboration and commitment, and recognize that these case studies only scratch the surface of their critical work.

Read about the pilot sites:

Colorado Office of the Future of Work

Site Description

Site State of Colorado (via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment – Office of the Future of Work)
Location Based in Denver, CO
Organization Type State office
Size1 537,334 New Americans (immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers)
New American Population2 49% Spanish-speaking
40% from Mexico
Contact Melanie Colletti, Digital Equity Manager 

The Office of the Future of Work (OFW), which is part of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), develops policy and programmatic solutions to ensure that all Coloradans can fully participate in a rapidly evolving workforce. Their work focuses on three areas: modern worker protections and benefits, planning for the changing nature of work, and supporting underserved populations. While the OFW does not provide any direct services, the Office works closely with the Colorado Office of New Americans (ONA), the Colorado Office of eHealth Innovation (OeHI), the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Colorado Department of Education, and local adult education providers to ensure effective service delivery to immigrants and refugees across the state.

The OFW, OeHI, and the Colorado Broadband Office are responsible for co-leading Colorado’s Digital Equity Act activities, including the development and implementation of their State Digital Equity Plan (called the Colorado Digital Access Plan). The OFW has spearheaded Colorado’s digital equity and inclusion efforts since March 2021, when they were tasked with convening a statewide Subcommittee on Digital Literacy and Inclusion. In July 2022, the Subcommittee became the Digital Equity Committee, which currently serves as the stakeholder engagement group for Colorado’s Digital Access Plan and related efforts.


The OFW has been exemplary in including adult learners, New Americans, adult education providers, and immigrant and refugee serving organizations in the development of the Colorado Digital Access Plan.

  • Drawing on the experience and expertise of trusted stakeholders across the state. For example, the OFW contracted with twenty-three community-based organizations to distribute and support members of Digital Equity Act covered populations in completing their statewide digital equity survey. Input from these community-based organizations also helped ensure that the survey was available in twenty languages. Innovatively, the OFW also partnered with Comcast to release two public service announcements on the survey in English and Spanish. These efforts resulted in 5930 digital survey responses and 844 paper survey responses, 90 percent of which were from members of at least one covered population. Twenty-three percent of online survey respondents identified as immigrants, as well as 28% of paper survey respondents.
  • Intentional engagement of adult education and immigrant inclusion partners. Due to awareness building efforts from World Education, staff from the Colorado Office of Adult Education Initiatives (AEI) expressed interest in participating in the planning process very early on, which in turn built momentum for providers statewide to get involved. In February 2023, World Education coordinated a virtual meeting for the OFW, the adult education field, the ONA, United Way, and other relevant stakeholders to explore opportunities for effective collaboration. The OFW followed up by holding a meeting on how to provide input on the Digital Access Plan specifically for adult education providers in June 2023, and the Digital Equity Manager at the OFW noted that adult education providers were more heavily represented on the Digital Equity Committee than organizations serving other covered populations. Several adult education providers also hosted listening sessions to gather public and partner feedback throughout the planning process. As a final critical point of intersection, AEI also manages the state’s Northstar Digital Literacy licenses for assessing and developing digital skills.

    Staff from the OFW also participated on the ONA Global Talent Task Force. Both the OFW and the ONA are committed to increasing connectivity and internet adoption for New Americans, and the offices will work together over the coming years to align their strategies. The ONA’s and the OFW’s work naturally align in other areas as well: ONA works to connect New Americans to jobs and deploys programs such as the Virtual, Career-Aligned English as a Second Language (VCESL) Program, which provides career and sector-specific adult English language courses via digital platforms.

  • Identifying multiple critical strategies for supporting digital equity statewide, including supporting regional coalitions. Drawing on data from the OFW’s Digital Equity Ecosystem Mapping (DEEM) survey and lessons learned from the TIDE project, the OFW intends to use its Digital Equity Capacity Grant to support the building of regional digital equity coalitions. The coalition model will not only ensure sustainability beyond the five years of Capacity Grant funding, but also allow organizations with less capacity for managing a state grant to still receive funding. The OFW also aims to expand its statewide Digital Navigator program, the first cohort of which started in November 2023, and pursue device refurbishment and repair programs at rural community colleges, which would provide new learning opportunities for community college students while supporting device acquisition by adult learners in rural areas and shore up the local device ecosystem. Other priorities include making public websites more accessible, increasing the availability of digital skills training statewide, and using software to continue asset mapping while demonstrating and capitalizing on the connections among organizations participating in Colorado’s digital inclusion ecosystem.

Lessons Learned

The OFW’s Digital Equity Act stakeholder engagement activities revealed gaps and challenges with building statewide digital equity systems, as well as opportunities for further work.

To collect responses for its DEEM survey, the OFW tapped into its extensive networks to reach over 700 organizations. However, only 240 respondents completed the survey. As seen in other states, many organizations did not see themselves as being digital inclusion providers or as stakeholders in the digital inclusion space, even if the organization might be actively providing digital inclusion services. With the DEEM survey responses forming the basis of who in each region should be involved in coalition building, the low response rate could mean that even organizations that have been doing digital inclusion work for years could be left out. The need to explicitly educate organizations on the broad definition of digital equity – and how digital inequity affects education, economic, social, and health outcomes – remains critical.

Secondly, as the OFW dove deeper into understanding each covered population, the significance and impact of intersectionality became increasingly evident. Though almost every adult learner is considered an individual with a language barrier, an overwhelming majority of adult learners are also members of at least one other covered population. For example, 83% of respondents who identified as having limited English proficiency also identified as being racial or ethnic minorities. Sixteen percent identified as being older adults, and 46% reported living in low-income households. Immigrants responding to the online survey also revealed intersectionalities: 20% percent of immigrants identified as being older adults, and 47% reported living in low-income households. The survey also indicated that 14% of low-income households and 14% of respondents identifying as immigrants only use mobile data plans to connect to the internet, presenting significant barriers to education and employment opportunities. These challenges that individuals who are members of multiple covered populations face are complex and often compounded by each other, and will require more time and collaboration to address.

Future Opportunities

Colorado released the draft of its Digital Access Plan on December 15, 2023, for public comment. In an effort to provide inclusive opportunities for participation, the Digital Equity Team also published brief summaries of the strategies for increasing digital access proposed in the plan, and translated these summaries into Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Pashto, Farsi, Dari, French, Russian, and simplified Chinese. When submitting a public comment online, individuals can also choose their preferred language. Additionally, the Digital Equity Team is contracting with about 20 community-based organizations to host in-person listening sessions in early January 2024. Hosts will be paid for these in-person sessions and also be funded for translation needs. Lastly, following a review of all submitted comments, the final version of the Digital Access Plan will be made available in English and Spanish. The State then expects to receive about $20 million in implementation funds via the Digital Equity Capacity Grant by mid-2024. World Education is cited as a collaborator and stakeholder in the plan, and the OFW’s participation in the TIDE project is noted as an asset for serving individuals with a language barrier.

This funding is coming at a critical time, as new migrants continue to arrive in Denver every day. Often unhoused and looking for work, they need affordable connectivity and devices in order to access critical services and search for jobs. In addition, there remains a significant need to increase access to telehealth services, especially for unhoused individuals and individuals without connectivity and device access at home. The OFW is collaborating with the Colorado Refugee Services Program and OeHI on these respective issues.


We sincerely thank Melanie Colletti and Katherine Keegan from the Colorado Office of the Future of Work for their time and commitment to this project.


  1. “Immigrants in Colorado,” American Immigration Council, accessed September 20, 2022,
  2. “About New Americans,” Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, accessed November 10, 2023,

Holyoke Community College

Site Description

Site Holyoke Community College – English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program
Location Based in Holyoke, MA
Serving Holyoke, Ludlow, Springfield, and West Springfield, MA
Organization Type Two-year community college
Size3 575 students served per year
41 staff4
Learner Population 75% women
46% Hispanic or Latino
39 years old, on average
Contact Pesha Black, Director of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

Holyoke Community College (HCC)’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program spans multiple cities in Western Massachusetts, including Holyoke, Ludlow, and Springfield. In alignment with its vision of helping students overcome barriers to success, HCC provides a variety of free, state-funded classes, which are currently offered in online, hybrid, and in-person modalities. These classes include general beginner- to advanced-level classes, Integrated Education and Training programs (known in Massachusetts as MassSTEP), and an Accelerated Career English (Pay-for-Performance) program. HCC also offers credit-bearing academic ESOL courses outside of the Adult Education Program.

In February 2022, HCC began offering a state-funded ESOL class at the West Springfield Public Library (WSPL). West Springfield has long been home to many refugee communities: despite the size of the population – approximately 28,000 – the city ranks fourth highest in the U.S. for refugee resettlements per capita.5 Various adult education providers serve the area, including WSPL, refugee resettlement agencies, and volunteer initiatives run by faith-based organizations. However, the increasing need for ESOL services in the absence of a coordinated system poses a significant challenge to access, as learners must navigate the array of providers, each with different focuses, funding mechanisms, and modalities of instruction, without support. With the recent influx of unhoused immigrant families in the city this past year,6 the need for streamlined access to comprehensive ESOL and support services is more pressing than ever.


With guidance from World Education, HCC has focused on tackling West Springfield’s siloed ESOL and digital inclusion system from multiple angles, including actively listening to immigrant and refugee learners in the community, convening ESOL and immigrant service providers, and participating in Western Massachusetts’ regional digital equity coalition.

  • Facilitating a student leadership group to understand and address technology challenges in the West Springfield community. The group, comprising six immigrant women, met monthly between February and June 2023 to define the problem (a lack of digital skills), decide on a solution (digital literacy classes), and draft a community survey on digital needs while learning the language and cultural norms for facilitating meetings in an American workplace. Elements of the survey were rolled out to HCC’s student community in the fall, and HCC drew on the resulting feedback for its new digital literacy classes starting in December 2023 and January 2024. HCC’s Director of ESOL cites this uplifting of student leadership opportunities as the most impactful shift the program has made during its participation in the TIDE project, and is committed to using this student leadership model in other areas of HCC’s work as well. 
  • Regularly convening local ESOL programs to better understand each other’s services and strengths and identify opportunities for collaboration. In 2023, the five programs – HCC, WSPL, West Springfield Public Schools (WSPS), Ascentria Care Alliance, and Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts – sought to improve and track their learner referrals, which included supporting their frontline staff in developing relationships and creating a comprehensive list of available ESOL services in West Springfield. Long-term, the goals are to avoid duplication of programming and to build a holistic “no wrong door” system,7 in which providers across the community intentionally coordinate to ensure learners have streamlined access to services.
  • Collaborating with the Town of West Springfield, including WSPL and WSPS. West Springfield is in the process of building out its municipal broadband network, which will expand high-speed internet access to neighborhoods with a plurality of low-income immigrant and refugee residents. In the meantime, HCC has led other digital equity initiatives in the city and region: in August and November 2023, they organized two Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) enrollment events in collaboration with Springfield Partners for Community Action (a local ACP outreach partner), WSPS, WSPL, Springfield Technical Community College, and Comcast, resulting in 24 attendees/enrollments. WSPS, which had not been aware of ACP previously, was able to purchase and lend additional iPads to students with the funds saved from not having to also purchase data plans. This event also paved the way for future ACP outreach efforts in Hampden County, providing a model for group enrollment events (instead of individualized appointments). Lastly, HCC has started to run “bring your own device” digital literacy classes at WSPL, which give learners opportunities to identify topics of interest, troubleshoot on their own devices, and learn about differences between operating systems.
  • Working more closely with the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity. While HCC had been a member of the Alliance since its inception in fall 2020, the anticipation of new statewide digital equity funding, as well as HCC’s participation in TIDE, brought new opportunities for HCC to more deeply engage in the work. When the Alliance received funding for community outreach from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the lead on Massachusetts’ Digital Equity Plan, HCC hosted one of the state’s Digital Equity Act public listening sessions in September 20238 and supported the distribution of the state’s resident survey on internet access and digital equity. HCC’s Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center in Holyoke also serves as the site for Tech Foundry’s Tech Hub, an Alliance-led initiative that provides free digital inclusion services, including tech support and digital literacy classes, for Western Massachusetts residents. The Hub opened in October 2023, and HCC’s ESOL learners have found the services to be helpful and easy to access.

Lessons Learned

One of the primary challenges HCC faced was adapting to the changing nature of once-anticipated partnerships. When World Education first spoke to HCC about joining the TIDE project in February 2022, HCC had planned to work closely with the Town of West Springfield, whose diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) coordinator strongly supported their vision of uplifting immigrant and refugee leadership. However, the DEI coordinator left the Town in June 2022, a month after funding for the position was eliminated.9 As a result, WSPL stepped up its partnership with HCC, committing to providing access to critical space and resources for the immigrant and refugee community even as the library underwent its own leadership transition: over the past two years, WSPL has greatly expanded its ESOL classes, which are taught by a number of local providers, including the Town itself.

At the same time, these changing partnerships gave HCC an opportunity to seek out new ones. Although HCC had long been a member of the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity, the Director of ESOL was unaware of this connection until she reached out. Once she was in conversation with the Alliance, she was able to leverage their relationships with MBI and local coalition members to spearhead events like the ACP enrollment event in partnership with WSPS. This example also highlighted the importance of having staff at multiple levels – and at the right levels – be engaged in partnership work.

The technology student leadership group posed new opportunities and challenges as well. Centering the voices of immigrant and refugee learners aligned with HCC’s ongoing work in antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially the tenet of “nothing about us without us,” and HCC was clear in their intention to engage learners as key stakeholders, problem solvers, and co-creators in planning future services. However, this particular student leadership model was new to staff, and HCC found it difficult to recruit learners when they themselves were still in the process of defining the purpose and structure of the group.

As the group took shape, HCC walked a careful line between facilitation versus support, not always knowing when to push learners further and when to stand back. At first, learners struggled to see themselves as leaders in the space and to collectively identify the most pressing issues that immigrants and refugees in their community faced. Later, when they started to develop their survey on digital needs, they sometimes shifted from their new role as survey creators to their more accustomed role as survey respondents: for example, as they revised and reviewed their survey questions, they would answer the questions themselves instead of evaluating the effectiveness and clarity of the questions. Through thoughtful discussion of student leadership and motivations, HCC was able to support learners in forming a group identity as leaders. However, these challenges point to a larger need not only for further resources in this area, but also to widely and regularly recognize learners’ capabilities as agents of change. It is also critical that this recognition includes all learners, not only those who may already have access to program and community conversations or better educational and professional opportunities: HCC’s technology student leadership group comprises intermediate-level learners rather than advanced-level.

Notably, the funding HCC received through TIDE was essential to its success. For example, the student advisor who helped facilitate the technology student leadership group was given time every week to work specifically on TIDE-related tasks, rather than having the work being piled on top of her existing hours and responsibilities. Meaningfully engaging both learners and community partners, especially in the broader context of ecosystem work, requires significant, sustained investment in staff time and resources.

Future Opportunities

With adult learner leadership models receiving increasing attention across the country, many opportunities exist to replicate and expand HCC’s technology student leadership group. For instance, the model could be adapted at a regional or state level so that immigrant and refugee learners can provide critical input on digital equity and inclusion issues. Similarly, if states will be required to regularly solicit feedback from individuals with lived experience as they implement their State Digital Equity Plans over the next five years, both new and existing groups could serve as one avenue of doing so.

The activities of the technology student leadership group also overlap with San Francisco State University (SFSU)’s ongoing work to advance communicative justice in immigrant and refugee communities by teaching data literacy in the adult English language learning classroom.10 Communicative justice upholds the right of marginalized communities to collect, interpret, and communicate data instead of merely being the subject of data, and the project aims to change the way that people think about data in general by engaging adult learners as “data creators, data storytellers, and data visualizers.”11 A partner in SFSU’s work, World Education connected HCC and SFSU in May 2023 and sees great potential for future collaboration.

HCC’s participation in TIDE has also opened the door for several other strong partnerships. While HCC’s collaboration with Springfield Partners for Community Action started with ACP enrollment events, the two organizations are now looking for other ways to work together: for example, some HCC learners with accounting or administrative experience may serve as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance volunteers with Springfield Partners in 2024.

Massachusetts also continues to support digital equity and inclusion activities statewide. In April 2023, the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity received $5.1 million to provide hotspots and devices to unhoused individuals, digital literacy and skills training, hardware for public internet access, and ACP outreach.12 MBI is also expected to receive Digital Equity Act funding to implement Massachusetts’ Digital Equity Plan by mid-2024. With more people aware of the impact of the digital divide than ever, World Education hopes that HCC can leverage these investments to expand their innovative efforts and truly bridge the divide for immigrants and refugees in West Springfield and Hampden County.


We sincerely thank Pesha Black and Moira Lozada from Holyoke Community College’s ESOL Program for their time and commitment to this project.


  1. As of June 30, 2023.
  2. These numbers refer only to Holyoke Community College’s ESOL Program.
  3. Adam Frenier, “West Springfield Ranks Near Top In Per-Capita U.S. Refugee Resettlements,” New England Public Media, March 2, 2020,
  4. Jill Kaufman, “In West Springfield schools, a ‘constant flow’ of homeless students, many newly arrived in U.S.,” GBH, updated October 17, 2023,
  5. Silja Kallenbach et al., Adult Education and Immigrant Integration: Networks for Integrating New Americans (NINA) Theoretical Framework (Boston: World Education, Inc., 2013), 17,
  6. “Pioneer Valley Region Listening Session,” Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, accessed November 28, 2023,
  7. Jonathan Gerhardson, “Mayor hopes to bring back diversity officer job after study,” Reminder (East Longmeadow, MA), September 15, 2022,
  8. Margaret A. Handley, Maricel G. Santos, and María José Bastías, “Working with Data in Adult English Classrooms: Lessons Learned about Communicative Justice during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 20, no. 1 (2023): 696,
  9. Maricel G. Santos, “Teaching data literacy, advancing communicative justice with immigrant and refugee communities” (presentation, Open Door Collective, online, October 27, 2023).
  10. “Massachusetts Awards $14 Million to Address Digital Divide,” Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, April 27, 2023,

Literacy for Life

Site Description

Site Literacy for Life
Location Based in Williamsburg, VA
Serving Williamsburg, Newport News, and Hampton, VA
Organization Type Community-based organization
Size13 703 students served per year
13 staff
203 volunteer tutors
Learner Population 71% women
47% ages 24-44
38% Hispanic
Contact Jason Thornton, Executive Director

Literacy for Life (LFL) is an adult literacy nonprofit based in Williamsburg, Virginia, with a mission of empowering adults by building foundational skills for success in life and work. LFL provides individualized, one-to-one and small group tutoring in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), as well as basic literacy and numeracy skills. This model, which is made possible through a dedicated network of almost 150 volunteers, allows learners to receive instruction tailored towards their specific goals and needs, especially those that may not be addressed in a typical classroom or large-group setting. All tutors receive in-house training and are expected to commit to at least one year of service.

With an increasing number of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees arriving in Newport News, LFL partnered with Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) to provide digital inclusion services to their clients. While refugees receive support services from CCC upon arrival, they often find themselves under pressure to find a job and support themselves very quickly. LFL’s individualized tutoring model is able to not only accommodate their personal and work schedules, but also help mitigate other barriers to learning that refugees often face, including cultural barriers, low or no literacy in the refugee’s native language, and limited or interrupted formal education.


In addition to expanding digital access for multiple cohorts of refugee learners from CCC, LFL has played a critical role in advocating for the inclusion of adult learners, immigrants, and refugees in Virginia’s Digital Equity Plan (called the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan) with guidance from World Education.

  • Being awarded a Digital Opportunity Case Study Pilot Program grant to survey immigrant and refugee learners on their digital needs, assess their digital skills using Northstar Digital Literacy, and provide digital literacy instruction. This grant was administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which is responsible for developing and implementing the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan, and LFL’s resulting case study on the specific needs of immigrant and refugee learners was used to inform the plan. In total, LFL surveyed 100 learners, administered the Northstar Digital Literacy assessment to 36 learners, offered five sessions of digital literacy instruction to a class of 19 learners, and provided one-on-one digital literacy instruction to an additional 9 learners. In addition, to demonstrate the challenges immigrants and refugees face regarding affordable broadband access, LFL assisted 10 learners in applying for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).14
  • Being recognized by DHCD for its experience and expertise in serving immigrants and refugees and providing digital literacy instruction. In July 2023, LFL’s Executive Director was interviewed by DHCD as part of their stakeholder engagement efforts for the development of Virginia’s Digital Opportunity Plan. DHCD also invited the Executive Director to speak about the importance of digital skill building in connection to broadband adoption at the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference, the state’s largest event for housing and community development professionals, in November 2023.
  • Serving as a critical connection between DHCD and Virginia’s adult education system overall, supporting the field’s awareness of the Digital Equity Act. Following an initial conversation with DHCD in January 2023, LFL introduced DHCD to the Adult Education Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). As a result, DHCD was invited to 1) attend a VDOE webinar on closing the digital skills gap for Virginian workers in February 2023, and 2) present at  VDOE’s Adult Education and Literacy Advisory Committee meeting in March 2023. These engagements helped DHCD understand the needs of immigrant, refugee, and other adult learners, and the value of including adult education providers in the development of the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan. Throughout the year, LFL’s Executive Director also leveraged his connections to the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center and the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE) to reach the adult education field at large about Digital Equity Act-related opportunities.
  • Collaborating with both new and existing partners in different ways to address the complex barriers to digital inclusion that newly arrived refugees face. For example, while some incoming learners had received internet assistance and devices through CCC, others had not. To ensure that every learner had connectivity, LFL walked all interested learners through the ACP enrollment process one-on-one and connected with the primary internet service provider in Williamsburg to discuss other affordable internet options. LFL also drew on their partnership with the College of William & Mary, for whose employees LFL was originally established in 1975, to distribute refurbished laptops to learners without devices. In total, LFL served three cohorts from CCC, providing internet assistance, device access, and tailored digital literacy instruction to 35 refugees.

Lessons Learned 

LFL’s successes in Digital Equity Act advocacy and providing digital inclusion services to refugees were both largely the results of sustained partnership-building efforts.

New to state-level advocacy, LFL first reached out to DHCD’s Office of Broadband in January 2023. While their meeting resulted in multiple engagements with the Virginia adult education field in the following months, it took sustained efforts on LFL’s part to help DHCD understand the importance of including immigrants, refugees, and other adult learners in the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan, as well as how to meaningfully do so. When DHCD released their Digital Opportunity Survey for residents, for example, it was available only online and in English and Spanish. With support from World Education, LFL submitted a formal letter to DHCD citing the challenges the survey would pose for immigrants and refugees without internet and device access. As a result, DHCD made the survey publicly available in Russian, Ukrainian, and Arabic, and agreed to process completed paper copies of the survey submitted via mail.

These repeated engagements highlighted the value and impact of Digital Equity Act advocacy outside of the usual state-defined avenues, such as participating in a working group and submitting a public comment. For LFL, DHCD’s responses also demonstrated that their efforts could have tangible, almost immediate effects, and motivated them to continue engaging. Lastly, LFL’s experiences, needs, and challenges throughout the year directly informed many of the resources World Education developed for adult education and immigrant service providers around Digital Equity Act advocacy.

LFL’s collaboration with CCC similarly took several months to take off. Staff from LFL and CCC had met to discuss a potential partnership in June 2022, but due to differences in communication and a shortage of staffing at CCC, LFL was not able to hold a successful intake and assessment session until January 2023. After the enrollment period, LFL also realized that the learners’ digital literacy needs were broader than anticipated: originally, LFL had only been planning to teach the skills needed to navigate learners’ new devices and attend virtual ESOL classes. The program was able to pivot so that some learners could receive digital literacy and ESOL instruction for job searching and some could receive instruction on basic digital literacy skills.

Future Opportunities

With the draft of the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan published for public comment on November 29, 2023, LFL has been working with VDOE and VAACE to spread the word. LFL also plans to submit a comment encouraging the state to 1) be more explicit about supporting programs that address the digital literacy needs of individuals with a language barrier, 2) support sustainable funding for these programs so that they can ensure long-term impact, and 3) prioritize organizations that already work to address other foundational skills for covered populations, including adult education and literacy organizations, for funding.

In addition, VDOE has been coordinating with DHCD to ensure that Virginia adult education data and programming will be included in the final version of the plan. World Education hopes that these combined efforts will open the door for adult education providers to serve as implementation, community outreach, and expertise partners when Virginia receives State Digital Equity Capacity Grant funding in early to mid-2024.

On an organizational level, LFL’s Executive Director has expressed further interest in engaging in similar advocacy efforts to support learners’ needs in other areas. Providing digital inclusion services to CCC clients has also helped strengthen services and partnerships for learners enrolled in LFL’s other programs. Finally, in August 2023, Peninsula READS, a community-based adult literacy program serving Newport News and Hampton, was forced to close. With no similar programs in the area, LFL has rapidly expanded into the Lower Peninsula to ensure continuity of services for the community: in January 2024, LFL opened a location at the Peninsula Workforce Development Center in Hampton. Since the number of adults who are eligible for LFL’s services in Newport News and Hampton is nearly triple the number of eligible adults in Greater Williamsburg, there is significant potential for LFL to reach many more adult learners in 2024 and beyond.


We sincerely thank Jason Thornton, Frances Falcon, and Mary O’Brien from Literacy for Life for their time and commitment to this project.


  1. During the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
  2. Literacy for Life, Digital Opportunity for Adults with Language Barriers, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, accessed December 1, 2023,