Martin Velazquez is a part-time janitor at the Oakland Coliseum in the Bay Area. He is known by his coworkers and colleagues as the ‘Coliseum Professor’ due to his enthusiasm for learning and teaching technology. In 2010, Martin became a student in BSP’s Computer Literacy class in Oakland. After showing remarkable improvement and dedication as a student, then as a volunteer for 8 years, Martin was hired as BSP’s Computer Literacy instructor. Now, Martin helps his fellow janitors and local community members navigate our increasingly high tech world.
Before he was a BSP instructor, Martin’s story began in Mexico, where he lived with his wife and two sons and worked at a bank. After he was laid off when the bank declared bankruptcy, Martin struggled to find work opportunities. He decided to immigrate to the United States in search of work to support his family in Mexico.
Martin eventually settled in San Francisco and got a job as a janitor at the Oakland Coliseum, but soon after recognized the difficulties of being physically separated from his family. In order to keep up to date with his technological skills, Martin explored new ways to communicate with his wife and son in Mexico. This eventually led him to BSP’s Oakland computer lab. With the support of Comcast and Unidos US, BSP was able to purchase 24 computers to bridge the digital divide and improve communication abilities for immigrant janitors like Martin. BSP’s Computer Literacy class covers basic computer skills such as typing skills, internet navigation, Microsoft Word, Excel, and communication tools such as Skype, Facebook messenger and email.
Martin excelled in the class and now communicates daily with his two sons, both of whom are pursuing their college degree in Mexico. Martin believes technology empowers people and wants to spread his knowledge to ensure his coworkers are not left behind in our ever changing high tech economy. After participating in the Computer Literacy class, he would often hold open hours after work to offer extra support to his coworkers; walking them through computer basics and introducing them to online educational opportunities.
For Martin, the most rewarding part of being digitally literate is communicating with his family. He believes being able to use a computer is equally as important as being able to read and write. Martin dreams of earning his teaching credentials so he can continue to help his community learn and grow.
BSP is grateful for the support of Comcast and Unidos US to promote technology as a tool to reach, impact, and bridge the digital divide in our communities.