In Lee County, Kentucky, located in rural eastern Kentucky, the poverty rate for children and youth under the age of 18 is 52 percent, according to Paige Denniston, coordinator of our partner there, the Lee County Elementary Family Resource Center.
“That means half our children are not getting the basic items they need,” says Paige. “Food and shelter are the main concerns of our families, with shoes, coats and clothes coming in second.
“With so many resources focused on providing basic essentials, our students only have the use of a computer while they are at school,” Paige told us in her application for computers through our Digital Divide program.
But as we have all learned from this past year, access to a computer at home has been vital in ensuring a continuing education. According to the elementary school’s back-to-school surveys completed by students’ parents or guardians, more than half stated that their child would be learning from home this academic year.
“Of these responses, more than half reported that they do not have the needed technology at home for their child to learn virtually successfully,” reported Paige, adding that the grant funding “will be utilized to ensure that students and their family members are not put at a risk of COVID-19 solely due to a lack of resources and technology.”
“As many children in this area are raised by their grandparents or other elderly family members, it is not possible for them to come to school safely and risk carrying COVID-19 home,” she noted.
“Without a computer or even internet access, in many of these homes, it is a serious risk that these students will fall behind and not receive the true classroom virtual experience.”
This December, we hope to change that for the students in one classroom.
This year, 5th-grade students will be asked to write an essay on how being awarded a computer will make a positive impact on their lives.
Last year, through the Americans Helping Americans® Bridge the Digital Divide Grant Program, Paige was able to purchase 34 new laptop computers for students at the elementary school at a discounted rate.
This year for the first time, our goal is to expand our program to provide computers to students at the Lee County Middle/High School as well, meaning that 44 students in Lee County, Kentucky could be able to bridge the Digital Divide with your help!
Jennifer Wilder, director of the schools Youth Service Center, says her goal is “to connect high-risk students and families with the resources they need to be academically successful.”
And we at Americans Helping Americans® fully support that goal in the strong belief that a laptop or Chromebook is among those necessary resources.
As in the case of the elementary school, the middle and high school students would write essays about how having a computer at home would benefit them and submit their essays to the Youth Service Center’s Advisory Council, made up of community members, parents, students, and school staff to select two students, one male and one female, in each of the schools 6-12 grade levels who are most in need of a computer.
Among the 5th-grade students who received a computer, last year was Bob who told us, “My grades got better after I got my Digital Divide laptop. I was having to sit in the living room on my family’s desktop with my little siblings and being loud around me.
“With my laptop, I could go into my room and really concentrate.”
And without the Digital Divide program, Paige estimates that one-fourth of the student population “would go without an adequate learning experience at home without the use of this much-needed technology, or would be forced to put themselves and vulnerable family members at risk if the were forced to come to school due to a lack of technology at home.”
And, for those that live in rural areas where internet service is not available Paige has a solution.
“I hope to provide every student without internet access with a USB device so that their teachers can upload their video classroom lectures and assignments so they will have access to the same quality teaching experience as their peers.”