Digital Promise’s Adult Learning initiative launched Community Impact Stories, a new series of blog posts to highlight adult learner stories across the nation. The series explores the powerful impact of local nonprofits and community-based organizations that provide adult learning and workforce development opportunities to families and communities. We invite partner organizations and learners themselves to share their stories moving forward.
Celena Mancina is Vice President of Operations at Grand Circus, a Detroit-based organization that provides digital literacy training. As the partnership manager of the Facebook Community Boost grant in Michigan, Celena serves as a thought partner and resource developer to partner organizations across the state. Their coalition is committed to providing digital literacy training to job seekers, small business owners, and professionals looking for career advancement. Celena’sexperience as a facilitator, educator, and administrator in Detroit—at an exciting time for the city and state—has shaped her approach to collaborating with Facebook Community Boost partner organizations in and outside of Michigan. Below you’ll find a Q&A we held with Celena to dive further into her work.
Describe the mission and work of Grand Circus in Michigan.
Grand Circus is focused on elevating the tech community in Michigan. We want to be a one-stop shop for tech talent—for Michiganders looking for a new career in tech, and for employers looking to hire local talent.
How did Grand Circus become involved with the Facebook Community Boost partnership? How has this partnership with other Michigan-based organizations developed over time and informed Grand Circus’ work?
In 2016, Facebook reached out to Grand Circus with a big goal of providing digital literacy training for 3,000 Michiganders in two years. We immediately jumped on board! We love big goals! Together, we came up with the idea of, rather than doing it all on our own, tapping our local partners (and some not-so-local—hello Traverse City!) to help us reach communities of entrepreneurs, business people, job-seekers, up-skillers, and the curious-minded. Today, we have reached 800 Michiganders through the Facebook Community Boost partnership, and along the way we have been able to build the Grand Circus brand while also lending guidance to local partners to help build theirs.
What does digital literacy mean to Grand Circus?
Digital literacy is what we do at Grand Circus. It’s our primary focus, whether it involves coding, digital marketing skills, or basic computer literacy. Digital literacy is baked into all aspects of our business.
We focus on reaching community members and meeting them where they’re at through free Intro to Coding Workshops as well as partnering with organizations across the state through our Facebook partnership. We believe the tech industry should reflect the diversity of our community, and we aim for our classrooms and programs to reflect the community we’re in. We do this through free workshops, diversity scholarships, and partnerships with local government and workforce development agencies to offer funding for low-income workers and unemployed residents.
How does Grand Circus support Michiganders in “skilling up”?
Not only do we partner with Facebook, but we also offer free Intro to Coding workshops weekly, across the state. These three-hour workshops are meant for anyone who is curious about coding. After that, they have the option to take a one-day fundamentals course and then a two-day intro course, all for under $100. Through the Facebook partnership, Grand Circus has partnered with 17 organizations across the state to offer free, digital marketing skills workshops, focusing on Facebook and Instagram.
What has been the greatest lesson Grand Circus has gained as a result of the Facebook partnership?
I felt like I already knew this going in, but realized it to an even greater extent after the first year: Every organization is so different and the needs are so unique to their community, geographic location, funding, etc. All of the organizations we partner with reach such different people, which makes it interesting to hear success stories after workshops are completed. I think we all—Grand Circus, Facebook, and Digital Promise—thought the target market would be business owners and entrepreneurs; however, we also found people who just wanted to learn how to make funny videos and promote it on Instagram and Facebook! Amazing!
What do you find exciting about working at the intersection of adult learning and education technology (e.g., any trends in the industry that excite you or your instructors to support learners)?
What I find most exciting about working in adult learning and education technology is that anyone can work in digital skills. You don’t need a four-year degree or 5+ years of experience, or even be especially good at math and science. Anyone can do it! I also love that access to digital skills training, whether it be through coding bootcamps or digital marketing workshops, can open up a whole world of economic opportunity for one person, their families, and their communities.
How will Grand Circus continue the digital marketing workshop after the grant ends, if that is part of the company’s vision?
Since digital literacy is [central to] what we do, we’ll continue to offer coding workshops throughout the state. We hope to expand these through a local partnership with libraries and breweries (Beer & Code!). Since we have access to the Facebook digital skills curriculum, we’ll continue to offer these workshops for the community and work with our partners across the state to do so as well.
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