By Makenzie Atkins
Hillsborough Education Foundation has been working hard to close the ‘homework gap’ by providing families in need with tools like internet access and other resources.
When schools began to switch to virtual learning in early 2020, it started to become clear that many students had trouble gaining access to online school. With some students having to use smartphones to do homework or leave their homes and sit somewhere with free Wi-Fi, Hillsborough Education Foundation knew it had to step in and help.
The program provides students in need with a Microsoft Surface and one year of free internet access. As schools refer families to the foundation, someone from the team visits the homes to assess what the families need. Once provided with the tools, the families are then taught how to use the computer along with helping the children learn how to use the online programs needed for school. The team continues to provide resources for the families to help with using the computer or completing schoolwork.
The organization first started helping with the divide in April 2020 by offering families a hotspot for children to access online programs. The district had distributed laptops, but many families could not afford Wi-Fi for their children to complete all their work each day. The organization quickly realized that a hotspot was not enough for these children and by August the foundation was working on securing funding to offer more than just a hotspot.
Many families feel the stress of helping their children succeed in the new learning environment that people around the world have been adapting to because of COVID-19. Francis Hernandez, a single mother of four children, gives an insight to the pressures that families in our county, and many others, are dealing with.
“There’s a lot of parents out there struggling; Wi-Fi is probably not a priority to a lot of people,” said Hernandez. “Your light, your water, your utilities—you know, your rent, that’s your priority. Cable and Wi-Fi, that stuff is not cheap.”
Hernandez’s children have improved since gaining access to reliable computers and being able to connect with teachers online. She is grateful that the program is spreading through the state and is excited for the younger generations to have access to a great education.
To learn more, donate or volunteer with Hillsborough Education Foundation, please visit www.educationfoundation.com/initiatives/digital-equity/.