Lynnwood’s Somerset Village Apartments welcome new Comcast Lift Zone Lab

YWCA staff cut the ribbon leading to the new Comcast Lift Zone Lab.

Thanks to a partnership between the YWCA and Comcast, families at Lynnwood’s Somerset Village Apartments now have a digital learning space to call their own.

Last week, the two organizations unveiled the new Comcast Lift Zone Lab at the YWCA’s Somerset Village Apartments, which include 64 permanent housing units for families earning 60% and below the area’s median income.

The new digital learning space is equipped with all the goods: free Wi-Fi, multiple laptops, a 3D printer, a gaming computer, a projector and even an oculus virtual reality station. Comcast donated $76,000 in equipment along with free internet and also provided an overall makeover of Somerset’s office area.

The YWCA Seattle King Snohomish and Comcast had originally begun partnering in 2019, developing preliminary plans for a digital space, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things came to a halt. However, the pandemic made both organizations realize how important both internet access and digital tools were for helping the country stay connected despite the virus.

That’s when the idea to create a Lift Zone at Somerset Village Apartments came to life.

The YWCA realized many children at the apartments were having trouble accessing online classes, completing their homework and staying connected to friends while in lockdown.

Comcast Senior Vice President Rodrigo Lopez said the company was eager to help support the community during the pandemic in any way it could.

“Everything today is done online,” Lopez said. “[Having access to reliable internet] has never been as important and powerful as it has been over the last few years.”

With kids making up over two-thirds of the residents at the Somerset Village Apartments, Lopez said staff wanted kids to not only have access to their online classes, but access to online fun as well. That’s where the gaming computer and VR station came into the mix.

Having his own teenagers at home, Lopez said the biggest way kids connect with each other now is through gaming, and he wanted these children to be able to have that opportunity as well.

“I know firsthand the power that this technology has with the kids,” he said.

In addition to multiple laptops, there is a gaming computer and a virtual reality station for kids to use.

Not only will this equipment help the children at the apartments access online education, but it will also help empower the women living there.

Cena Conteh, the community center coordinator at Somerset Village Apartments, said she’s thrilled to see the YWCA and Comcast partnering to uplift women.

“The YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women in the community,” Conteh said. “The connectivity and access the lab provides our community addresses the digital equity gap women and youth face in Snohomish County. This lab represents an investment into the future of our YWCA families.”

Conteh said while this Lift Zone may be a small step, it’s a step in the right direction. She hopes to see more companies commit to ending the inequity women and youth are facing not only in Snohomish County, but around the U.S.

“This lab stands for a brighter future,” she said.

Edmonds College Vice President of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Dr. Yvonne Terrell-Powell, who was present for the Lift Zone unveiling, said any day women are empowered is a great day.

“Today is a great day,” she said. “Let’s celebrate and breathe. There will never be another moment like this again.”

Terrell-Powell said she’s glad to see companies taking action to reach communities that don’t have the same resources as most. According to her, inequality will never go away until actions match thoughts.

“Let’s end racism,” she said. “But how will you? Let’s empower women. How will you? Our behaviors matter. And they need to match what we believe in and what we want, otherwise [nothing will change].”

YWCA’s Director of Information Technology Jason Aqui said the Lift Zone has been a game-changer for the organization. What would have taken years to raise funds for, became possible quickly thanks to Comcast.

Aqui said the YWCA is looking to offer various computer classes to get children more involved in technology. Typing, gaming and coding classes are all in the near future for the Lift Zone.

A mural hangs on the wall of the Lift Zone in honor of the YWCA’s goal to help women.

Incorporated in the lab is a mural created by the YWCA, Comcast’s Women’s Network Employee Resource Group and a local nonprofit organization, Urban ArtWorks. The mural features the words, “Keep Going, Keep Growing,” and is a visual reminder of the YWCA’s goal to help women and families transition into professional and social success.

“We’re moving past striving and now we’re getting to the thriving phase,” Conteh said.

The Comcast Lift Zone Lab is part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to reach tens of millions of people over the next 10 years with the tools, resources and skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing digital world.

Comcast will provide free, boosted internet to the Somerset Village Apartments Lift Zone Lab for the next three years.

Children came to see the Lift Zone after school. (Photo courtesy of Annalee Schafranek)

–Story and photos by Lauren Reichenbach

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