What Is
Connect
Across
Tacoma

About The Program

Connect Across Tacoma’s Digital Stewards program trains neighborhood leaders in the technical and community organizing skills necessary to create and maintain critical Internet networks and create thriving digital futures for their communities. This includes training in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, internet infrastructure, technology skills, collaborative research, fund development, outreach, mutual aid, and community organizing. Our Digital Stewards also train in emergency response and preparedness (mental health first aid, CPR) so they can help their communities build their own solutions in a variety of circumstances.

Once the Digital Stewards training program is complete, participants will be eligible to apply for a paid position to facilitate and train others on the design, construction of a wireless network within their community.

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Who Leads
Connect Across Tacoma

Black Brilliance Research Project

Black queer-led community research collaborative at the forefront of digital justice.

BBR envisions a future where every community is thriving.
Where every community are the creators of their own futures. Where every community is directing resources and support to what they need to be happy, healthy, and thriving.

BBR envisions a world free of injustice, where safety, health, and opportunity are not just ideals but tangible realities for every person.

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A photo of Dr. Shaun Glaze, Research Director & CEO Black Brilliance Research and Program Director of Connect Across Tacoma

Dr. Shaun Glaze (They/Them)

Research Director & CEO Black Brilliance Research

Dr. Glaze is the research director at Black Brilliance Research Project (BBR). Their journey is marked by a deep commitment to fostering inclusive spaces where diverse voices are not only heard but actively shape the future.

Shaun's teams have collectively launched dozens of projects, including innovative digital literacy solutions, designed participatory budgeting processes, led multi-state digital equity fellowships, and implemented workforce development programs.

Informed by the work of the Detroit Community Technology Project, BBR is proud to train teams to build internet infrastructure and public interest technology, conduct participatory action research, organize their community, and fund their digital futures.

Shaun holds a PhD from Boston College, MS from UMass Boston, and BA from The University of Texas at Austin.

Christopher Webb (He/Him)

Internet Access and Digital Equity Research Team Lead

Chris is Co-PI and Senior Personnel on several federally funded research grants, including National Science Foundation and National Telecommunications and Information Administration grants.

In addition, he has worked closely with Dr. Glaze on numerous Washington State, King County, City of Seattle grant funded digital equity research and infrastructure development projects, as well as 4 adult and 2 youth Digital Steward cohorts.

Chris leads the Digital Stewards Program and has 15 years experience teaching Digital and Information Literacy. He is also a faculty member at Seattle Central College in the STEM +B Department and teaches IT subjects, including programming and Tech Industry courses.

Chris holds a Master’s degree in Information Science with a specialization in Information Economics, Management and Policy (IEMP) from the University of Michigan, along with a Bachelor's degree in International Economic Development with a concentration in Latin American Political Economy.

A headshot of Chris Webb of Black Brilliance Research
A headshot of Sandra Toussaint Digital Equity Project Manager

Sandra Toussaint (She/Her)

Digital Equity Project Manager

Sandra is focused on getting digital and tech tools needed today, to underrepresented and often neglected communities.

Born and raised in South Seattle, in a community organizing and political active household, Sandra has been trained since childhood in advocacy and the importance of speaking truth to power. These skills were further developed in her work as an organizer, political advocate and lobbyist within the labor movement.

Sandra is informed by her life experience as well as professional in her project management style. Previous successes include increasing access to higher education, increasing voter rights, and expanding civil rights here in Washington.

Sandra holds a MA from American Public University System, and a BA from Western Washington University.

Ryan Wright (He/Him)

Director of IT and Cybersecurity & Instructor and Community Organizer

Ryan Wright is the Director of IT and Cybersecurity at Black Brilliance Research Project (BBR) and holds the title of Instructor and Community Organizer for Connect Across Tacoma (CAT). Throughout his life, Ryan has held many hats including Network Technician, Network/Systems Administrator, Infrastructure Engineer, Director of Information Technology. Ryan has also worked as a freelance IT consultant.

Beyond the technician aspects, Ryan’s passion lies in something deeper. He wants to bridge the digital divide and make technology accessible to everyone. It’s not just about the hardware or software; it's about empowering people who don’t have easy access to these tools.

Ryan has a B.A. in History, a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity and Leadership from the University of Washington. Ryan also holds multiple industry certifications including the ISC2 CC.

Ryan is also the Executive Director of Junxbox, a nonprofit committed to bridging the digital divide by donating technology and providing tutorials to families in greater Pierce County.

A headshot of Ryan Wright
A headshot of Mandee Figueroa of Black Brilliance Research

Mandee Figueroa (She/Her)

Creative Director

Mandee is known for her diverse and innovative approach in the world of design and creativity. Her expansive portfolio includes children's books, board games, video games, fashion lines, and research papers. Mandee's artistry is about more than just creation; it's about forging connections with people and communities, using her work to evoke emotions and effect positive change.

From a young age, Mandee was self-taught, beginning with simple tools like Microsoft Paint and advancing to more complex digital mediums. Her artistic journey was uniquely complemented by her education in mathematics and science, forming a foundation that seamlessly integrates with her art, reflective of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) philosophy. This interdisciplinary background not only enriched her artistic vision but also enabled her to teach others about AI, computer building, and software use, highlighting the intersection of technology and art.

Her influence extends beyond typical design roles. Her involvement in community projects includes creating murals that amplify the voices of those affected by the war on drugs, employing her video editing skills to craft compelling narratives for communities battling mis and disinformation, and applying her expertise in brand design to effectively bring business visions to life. In essence, Mandee’s unique blend of artistic talent and STEAM-based educational background allows her to inspire, engage, and make a significant difference in both the artistic and technological realms.

Mandee holds a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Brooklyn College.

John Scott (He/Him)

Technology Instructor and Community Organizer

John Scott is a Technology Instructor and Community Organizer at Black Brilliance Research Project. He spent most of his life in the Midwest and grew up in Illinois.

From an early age, John taught himself skills on the computer. Making digital art with free software and designing cities in 3d programs. Starting in middle school, he was placed in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programs and thrived. Learning how to code video games, wire circuit boards as well as design and print mechanical parts. In 2014 he created ScottHelp, an educational YouTube channel that teaches others technical skills in video editing and computer software. 

John received his higher education in film and politics. Earning an Associates in Film from Flashpoint Chicago and a Bachelors in Political Science at Illinois State University. He went on to intern at McLean County Government and continued his work there by serving in the AmeriCorps as a Digital Navigator. John’s task was to help rural and underserved communities gain access to high-speed internet. He also worked on bridging the digital divide in North Central Illinois by creating a ‘learn to earn' program between nonprofit computer distributors and digital literacy programs such as Northstar.

A headshot of John Scott

Our Partners

We are excited to offer cohorts of paid training with our partners Local Connectivity Lab and the University of Washington Tacoma. This work is financially supported by the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Local Connectivity Lab

The Seattle Community Network began in 2019 as a project of the Local Connectivity Lab (LCL), a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit that develops and deploys open source cellular network technologies to help people run their own community networks.

LCL works in partnership with the University of Washington (UW) to share free or low-cost broadband access in higher-need areas throughout the city, making use of existing city network infrastructure such as buildings and fiber-optic cables to extend coverage to more people.

Their mission is to facilitate community focused technology development and research in support of low-income, marginalized populations and groups.

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A photo of Chris Jowaisas Senior Research Scientist, Information School, University of Washington

Chris Jowaisas (He/Him)

Senior Research Scientist, Information School, University of Washington

Chris Jowaisas is a senior research scientist at the University of Washington’s Information School’s Technology & Social Change Group.

Previously, Chris was a Senior Program Officer for the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior roles include grants management at the Texas State Library & Archives Commission and technology management at the Texas Library Association.

Chris also served in multiple roles from 1997 – 2006 in the US Library Program at the Gates Foundation. His research interests include how public libraries support cultivating, producing, and sustaining local knowledge and how public libraries participate in and leverage open data ecosystems for the benefit of their communities.

Chris holds an MLIS from University of Michigan and BA from University of Oklahoma.

University of Washington Tacoma

Chris Jowaisas is a senior research scientist at the University of Washington’s Information School’s Technology & Social Change Group.

Previously, Chris was a Senior Program Officer for the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior roles include grants management at the Texas State Library & Archives Commission and technology management at the Texas Library Association.

Chris also served in multiple roles from 1997 – 2006 in the US Library Program at the Gates Foundation. His research interests include how public libraries support cultivating, producing, and sustaining local knowledge and how public libraries participate in and leverage open data ecosystems for the benefit of their communities.

Chris holds an MLIS from University of Michigan and BA from University of Oklahoma.

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OUR INSPIRATION

Our Digital Stewards program is inspired by the Detroit Community Technology Project, a Black-led national leader and originator in community-based technology and digital equity.

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OUR COLLABORATORS

Some of our many supporters that were excited to collaborate with for this transformative work.

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the elite collective logo
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tacoma coorperative network logo
seattle central college logo
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