Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, during this past holiday season, 30 low-income students at Lee County Elementary School in Beattyville, Kentucky, received brand-new laptop computers that they were able to take home, enabling them to do their homework, conduct research for papers, and communicate with their teachers when school is closed due to inclement weather.
Sherry Lanham, director of the Lee County Family Resource Center in partnership with teachers, selected the students most in need of a computer to have at home.
In February, Executive Director Cameron Krizek visited the school to speak with a few of the students who received computers and asked them how they are being put to good use.
One girl told Cameron she uses educational websites such as Prodigy, a math learning program, as well as using her new computer to write papers for her science and social studies classes.
“It’s really helping me,” she told Cameron.
A young boy told Cameron that he did research on cicadas and learned all about their 17-year life cycles. He reported that they are slated to reappear in West Virginia this year.
And another boy used his new computer to start a campaign to provide socks for residents of a nearby nursing home. The fundraising campaign was so successful that they had enough pairs left over to distribute to residents of a half dozen more nearby nursing homes.
Sherry noted that many Lee County students and families need assistance in bridging the digital divide – the difference between those who have computers at home with internet access, and those who do not.
“Lee County’s median income is $18,000 with approximately 50 percent of our population living below the poverty level, and 30 percent living in extreme poverty,” she reported. “Twenty-eight percent of parents indicate that they do not have enough food each month.
“With this type of poverty in our county, it is impossible for families to meet their basic needs and educational supplies are not considered a priority.”
Sherry explained that students had to write an essay as to why they needed a computer and how it would help them in their schoolwork. In addition, parents also had to demonstrate how they would be able to provide internet services for the family.
“Our program is unique in that we try to identify non-academic barriers in the school,” said Sherry. “While every child may be at school during the day, not every child is prepared for school. Once families are identified as a family to receive a computer they will be offered computer classes by our technology staff.
“Many of our students are simply being left behind because they do not have the means to purchase a computer or the ability to use one properly.”
100 Lee County elementary students have received computers since we began our partnership with the family resource center to help bridge the digital divide. These students, their siblings, parents, extended families and even neighbors have also been putting them to good use.
The program helps students do their homework, improve their grades, participate in social media, and connect with other family members (at least one child used their new computer to Skype with their father when he was deployed overseas).
“Children are more aware of the programs and services they can access and are able to do work on non-traditional instruction days (when classes are cancelled due to inclement weather), and keep up with their classmates at school,” said Sherry.