Tuesday, January 5th marked the beginning of the spring semester at Lee District Elementary School in Beattyville, Kentucky, where so many children have been struggling to learn virtually at home since last March.

While it’s a challenge for any child to have to learn on a computer instead of in-person in a classroom, it is even more so for those who do not have a computer or broadband internet access at home.

But thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, since 2017 we have been able to provide the school’s Family Resource Center coordinator with grant funding to purchase computers for dozens of students most in need as determined by their teachers.

And this year is no different as we hope to provide 34 more students with brand new Chromebooks within a matter of days, enabling them to keep up with their classmates in a virtual classroom setting. This means they will be able to communicate with their teachers and friends and do the research necessary to successfully complete their assignments.

Over the years, Americans Helping Americans® has provided 135 computers to students at the elementary school, but the impact goes much wider than just those students. Many of the recipients also have siblings in school who have also benefitted from having computers in their homes.

And for those who live in apartment complexes or mobile home parks, some of the students’ homes have become a sort of computer lab for their friends who also need to use a computer for their schoolwork.

When we first began our pilot project to provide low-income, deserving students with computers (and ensuring that they had access to high-speed internet service) it was our effort at bridging the “digital divide” between those students whose parents could afford computers and those parents who simply could not.

Lee County schools use what the call “non-traditional instructional” (NTI) days when weather precludes students from coming to school on snow days, but since COVID-19 forced schools to close down last spring, every day is an NTI day now.

“Sam,” a fifth-grader, is among 34 students who hope to receive a new Chromebook this year. In his request for a computer, he told us in December that:

“In March of this year, schools across the country were closed, including mine.

“We were required to go to school virtually. At first it was annoying and hard to figure out.

“COVID-19 has impacted my school year from fourth grade and now into fifth grade.

“All of my work is done at home virtually on my mom’s computer. At home there is rarely quiet time because home life for my family still goes on.

“Google Meets are difficult for me because my little brother and sister are playing in the background…and they can get pretty loud!

“When they’re loud it is hard to concentrate and hear my teacher talking.

“Virtual school, however, has its positive side. For example, I can get more sleep. Also I have more time at home to spend with my brother and sister.

“Receiving a new computer would be beneficial for me because I could have a computer in my room and have privacy while I do my homework, and my brother and sister could play without being told to stop.

“COVID-19 has made this year hard on everyone and my family and I have been blessed not to have gotten sick.

“I pray that one day soon everything will be back to normal.”

Young Sam is wise beyond his years and speaks for all of us here who are also looking forward to that one day soon when everything will be back to normal.