In today’s digital age, access to the internet is more than just a luxury — it’s a necessity. And as educators increasingly turn to digital learning platforms, broadband access has come to be a key factor in a student’s academic success.
But there are still five million U.S. families with school-age children that do not have internet access at home, says Karen Paletta, Sprint’s regional president for the New York and Philadelphia tri-state region.
Combine that with the fact that 70 percent of teachers assign school work that requires web access, and the reality becomes clear: there is a blatant “homework gap” that is only further enhancing the educational divide between affluent and low-income students.
To combat this issue, Sprint has launched their ‘1 Million project’ — a multi-year program that will deliver free mobile devices and 3GB of high-speed wireless internet to one million low-income high school students who don’t have have a reliable source of internet in at home.
The company has already distributed 4,000 devices as a part of their pilot program to test 11 school districts across the country before putting the initiative into full effect at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
A few weeks ago, Paletta was taking part in the action in the Patterson, New Jersey school district. She watched in amazement as the student’s received their devices.
She spoke about one student who described her situation at home, where she and her siblings all shared one phone to do their homework. Another student who didn’t have wifi in his house would come into school early in the morning, or stay late at the end of the day just so he could use the school’s wifi.
“He was so thrilled to be able to do his homework in the comfort of his own household,” Paletta said. “All of the stories I heard, and the kid's faces — they were just elated, lighting up over this — made us feel like we were doing something really meaningful.”
Of course, the program gives students more than just a chance to use the internet to do their homework, says Paletta.
It allows students to connect with their teachers, apply for scholarships and jobs, and fill out their college applications when the time comes, she explains. It also prepares them for their careers and gives them the tools they need to embark into the digital era.
“We’re giving back not only to communities, but to the children who are the future of the country,” says Paletta. “It’s not only about closing the homework gap, were setting children up to be successful in life.”