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February 20, 2014

Shane KitzmanStaff Writer

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Ricky Hester is a licensed electrician who knows full well the role computers will play as the 44-year-old advances further in his career.

Geek Squad and Best Buy will help more than 300 people bridge the digital literacy gap with EveryoneOn seminars this year. The year-long push began on Wednesday in Washington D.C. with Geek Squad Agent Tavis Sellers and 16 eager learners.

“That’s what this era we are living in is all about – computers,” he said. “When I went through the apprenticeship for engineering, it took five years. But a lot of what I deal with now is computers. So any time I can take a class and learn how better to work with computers, that’s what I’m looking for.”

And that’s why Hester – alongside 15 others eager to learn on Wednesday – took part in the EveryoneOn training program that Best Buy and Geek Squad led at the Washington, D.C. Housing Authority’s Family Enhancement Center.

From explaining how email works to the difference between URLs and search bars – Geek Squad Double Agent Covert Tavis Sellers did his part to bridge the digital literacy gap that limits the potential for 60 million Americans, according to EveryoneOn.

When four in five teachers give homework online and more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies post job openings on the Internet only – those lacking computer skills get left behind.

“Technology is at the center of everything we do at Best Buy and these trainings help give people the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in this digital world,” said Best Buy Senior Director of Community Relations Susan Bass Roberts. “Our Best Buy blue shirts and Geek Squad agents live this stuff every day and they love it. This program allows them to share their expertise and help others in the process.”

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That’s why this year, beginning in Washington D.C. and continuing in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Detroit, Best Buy and Geek Squad will offer 20 two-hour EveryoneOn training sessions, helping more than 300 Americans get a leg up in the online world.

“It was a diverse crowd today — old folks, young folks, and middle-aged folks,” Sellers said. “I had one lady who had no computer knowledge at all. And everyone in the training session was OK with me devoting some special time to help her create an email and show her how it works.”

Best Buy has partnered with the national nonprofit EveryoneOn since its 2011 inception, with Geek Squad Agents successfully piloting the training program in February 2013.

In each city this year, the first of five sessions focuses on training the trainers, the community members who will help expand the program locally. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is using its network to assist EveryoneOn, with training sessions usually taking place at HUD facilities. The remaining four sessions are two-hour programs working directly with those who seek to better understand the online world.

As for Hester, he aimed to make the most of an opportunity in his own community.

“I want to thank the Best Buy people because folks in my community need this knowledge and information,” Hester said. “It’s so good to bring these classes to the people. I was happy to gain some knowledge today.”

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