Digital NEST members in lounge

How Digital NEST could lift a struggling rural community by getting kids out of the fields and into tech jobs

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Students relaxing at Digital NEST

It was a chilly Friday night in October 2013. Jacob Martinez was walking around the farmers market in downtown Watsonville, California, near the community college extension center, when he saw a young woman sitting outside the center, wearing a thin sweater, working on her laptop.

As Martinez got closer, he realized he knew her. This young woman was a former student from about eight years prior.

She said she was studying at the community college now and working on a research paper, but the library was closed, her family didn’t have internet at home, and she couldn’t afford to buy a coffee at Starbucks so she could use their Wi-Fi. Her best — and basically only — option was to use the extension center’s Wi-Fi, but since it was closed for the night, that meant she had to sit outside.

“That just hit me,” Martinez said, “Here’s this girl with tons of aspiration, hitting these barriers because of access.”

For Martinez, this was the fabled last straw that made him start working to establish Digital NEST, a collaborative space that offers high tech and professional skills training to young people ranging from 12 to 24 years old.

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