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New program promotes safety in digital life

Virginia students will learn the benefits and dangers of the Internet and other technology, and may be drawn to math and science careers, thanks to an online program being offered free to the state’s schools.

“Students today have access to the tools necessary to succeed – computers, the Internet, smartphones. But do they know how to leverage technology in a responsible and safe way?” said Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash. “We owe it to our children and students to teach them how to use technology responsibly.”

Fornash and other officials introduced the program, called My Digital Life, at a press conference at the state Capitol on Thursday.

The computer program teaches students the inner workings of the Internet and how to use technology safely, Gov. Bob McDonnell said. It was created by Neustar Inc., which analyzes the Internet, telecommunications, entertainment, advertising and marketing industries, and EverFi Inc., an education technology company.

The program also aims to spark student interest in jobs that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math. Neustar is providing the program to public schools at no cost to the state, said Lisa Hook, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Since its development, the Internet has dramatically changed the economy, education and other aspects of society.

“I can’t think in my short 57 years of anything that revolutionized American life more than the Internet,” McDonnell said. “People are just communicating in vastly different ways, and they’re also learning in very different ways.”

The changes haven’t all been positive. Schools, parents and students are concerned about Internet issues of privacy, security, cyberbullying and the irresponsible use of social networks, Fornash said.

The My Digital Life program is a course of about three and a half hours for eighth- and ninth-grade students. Through modules and simulations, it demonstrates how things like emailing, downloading, streaming and websites work, EverFi CEO Tom Davidson said.

As part of the course, students will learn “how to evaluate the risks of posting their personal information online, how to respond to cyberbullying and the obvious dangers of texting and driving,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said.

“Our kids are living their lives online, and this is a great new partnership to try to make sure that young people learn how to use the Internet and social media tools in a safer, more positive and responsible way.”

My Digital Life will not be a mandatory part of the state curriculum but rather a voluntary course option at the discretion of superintendents and principals, McDonnell said. “One of the best things we can do is to give young people sort of the no-nonsense pros and cons about Internet and cyberliteracy, and that’s what My Digital Life is all about.”

The initiative ties in with the governor’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM disciplines.

Hook said she hopes My Digital Life leads students to consider careers in STEM fields, such as those as Neustar. The company, which has about 700 employees in Virginia, analyzes and processes phone calls and text messages in North America as well 15 percent of the world’s Internet traffic, all on a daily basis, Hook said.

“It takes incredibly talented people with a science, technology, engineering and math background,” Hook said.

There is a growing demand for people with such skills. About 3 million STEM-based jobs are unfilled. By 2017, only 30 percent of all STEM positions will be filled by employees with an American education, Hook said.

“This is not just about digital literacy, and it’s not just about making children feel safe on the Internet,” Hook said. “But it’s teaching them how to conduct business on the Internet, how to set up a business, how to feel comfortable in a digital world and most importantly encourage them to go into STEM.”

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The website for Neustar is http://www.neustar.biz EverF.i’s site is at http://www.everfi.com
Community

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

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The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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