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Site Seeing in Cities
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 1999

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If you build it, they will log on. At least that's what Terry Lee thinks. He's created the Cyber-Youth Network, a Web site for urban teenagers. With the overdrive help of DaimlerChrysler and volunteers from the Pentagon and other places, Lee, 32, is planning to string together more than a dozen Web sites -- in cities across the country -- that provide information to inner-city kids.

In the early days of the Internet, there was considerable consternation that computers would not be made available to poor people. Lee says that community organizations, churches and public libraries have made it possible for most people to get onto the Internet. "Access has become less of a concern than it was before," he says.

The problem now, says Lee, is that when urban teens check into the Internet, it's hard for them to find the information they need.

That pertinent info is what Lee hopes to provide.

He should know something about cities. He grew up in Harlem. Thanks to special attention from a teacher, Lee applied to and was accepted at a ritzy New Jersey boarding school. He was going to school with the sons of CEOs and ambassadors. "I was exposed to a whole new world of opportunities," he says.

After graduating from Vassar, Lee wound up in Washington working for a consulting firm. Five years ago he founded A Broader Image (ABI), a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the African American image. Lee's group worked with the local bar association and the Pentagon to collect outdated computers and pass them along to public places, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. One of ABI's projects is the Cyber-Youth Network. The D.C. site opened earlier this month. More portals -- in Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York and other places -- will open over the next year or so, Lee says.

The site is full of energy: In the School Zone, visitors can link to research sites such as Homework Central and Electric Library. In an area labeled Today's History Makers, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder and astronaut Mae C. Jemison are spotlighted for Black History Month. On the site kids can learn about jobs, scholarships, colleges, prenatal care. In the Mentor Zone, kids can meet successful men and women -- this month, Ralph Gilles, a designer for DaimlerChrysler.

Other than a banner ad here and there, the automaker's presence is minimal.

"The Internet has exploded," says Lee. He hopes to provide avenues that would expose African Americans and Hispanic youth to role models they might not find in their own communities.

Such as the teacher he found in Harlem.


   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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