The Hillsborough Education Foundation donated Wi-Fi hotspots to families in Ruskin to help students with eLearning.

COVID-19 changed the way students learned and how teachers provided lessons for the last two months of the school year. One of the challenges that came to light during the shift to eLearning was the drastic digital divide for the most vulnerable students in Hillsborough County.

tudents at the area’s highest needs schools were in jeopardy of falling behind in their studies because of a lack of adequate Wi-Fi preventing them from accessing their learning platforms.

In response, Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) created a Digital Equity Team to find solutions to bridge the digital divide. With the generosity and support of donors, including Amgen Foundation and the PwC Charitable Foundation, HEF purchased 350 Wi-Fi hotspots to distribute to students in need. An additional 650 hotspots were later ordered to continue to meet the growing demand.

In collaboration with Hillsborough County Public Schools, the foundation identified students at the district’s 50 highest needs Achievement Schools to provide them with a hotspot of unlimited data for the remainder of this school year to help ensure academic success.

“Our goal is to serve the needs of students at all 50 Achievement Schools,” said Kendra Oestreich with HEF. “We will continue to secure additional hotspots, and once the needs are met at Achievement Schools, will expand to other Hillsborough County Title I schools. Without this technology, these students could easily fall behind and it may take years for them to recover from the lack of learning and learning loss.”

Established in 1987, Hillsborough Education Foundation is a nonprofit focused on strengthening public education by supporting teachers and empowering students to achieve academic and personal success. HEF’s resources and financial support enrich K12 educational experiences by providing opportunities for all students, regardless of background or economic status.

“Our work to bridge the digital divide is expected to continue in the coming months to help prevent the ‘Summer Slide’ with our most vulnerable students at risk of losing achievement gains made during the school year,” said Oestreich. “With the help of our incredible partners, we’re living our core belief of ensuring every student has access and opportunity to benefit from a high-quality education and making a difference in the lives of students and families in our community.”

For more about its COVID-19 response, visit https://educationfoundation.com/covid-19/. To donation, visit https://educationfoundation.com/donate/.