Associates in Action articles highlight CSG Associates’ philanthropic efforts and public-private partnerships throughout the states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that COVID-19 spreads between people in close contact with each other. Accordingly, Education Week reports that more than 124,000 schools nationwide closed in Spring 2020 to protect students and staff, sending 55.1 million U.S. students home. The decision hit kids in underserved communities hardest; many of them are at risk of falling behind because they do not have devices or reliable internet service at home to access virtual classrooms and learning programs. These tools are key to keeping up with today’s digital world. And in times like this, when traditional classroom learning is not an option, they are a necessity.
AT&T, a CSG Associate, created a $10 million fund to support parents, teachers and students through COVID-19 school closures.The new Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund gives parents, students and teachers tools they need for at-home learning. The $10 million fund also provides families resources to stay well, maintain meaningful connections and bonding opportunities for those isolated from family and friends.
“Our country is grappling with an unprecedented challenge,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. “Now more than ever before, connecting people with the resources they need to maintain a sense of normalcy is paramount. For students and teachers, that means creating the best digital learning environment. For families, that means simply staying connected to loved ones. Over the coming weeks and months, we’re committed to standing alongside the communities where we live and work, as we navigate through this trying time.”
The first contribution from the fund was $1 million to Khan Academy. This collaboration will improve and expand online learning resources to meet growing demand from parents, teachers and students, including those who rely on free resources and need Khan Academy the most. It also supports the development of new resources designed specifically for COVID-19 school closures.
To help keep families connected during this uncertain time, AT&T has funded free access and unlimited use of Caribu, a video-calling app that allows family members to read, draw and play games with one another while in distant locations. With thousands of popular book titles and activities available, Caribu is both a learning and a social tool that can bring families closer together and battle the isolation many face daily.
As millions of students shift to distance learning for an unknown duration of time because of COVID-19, small businesses focused on education are critical to ensuring that transition is successful. But small businesses are facing growing economic uncertainty. Nationwide, about 25% of these businesses — those with fewer than 250 employees — are in “immediate risk” of closing. That’s 2 million small businesses employing about 27.5 million Americans.
To support the critical work these companies do every day, AT&T is providing $1.2 million in contributions from the Distance Learning and Family Connections fund to seven AT&T Aspire Accelerator alumni companies from across the country.
T-Mobile, a CSG Associate, understands that many families in the U.S. do not have high-speed Internet at home, a problem often referred to as the Digital Divide. This divide leaves many students without access to digital textbooks and other materials off-campus, often causing them to fall behind their peers with online access. To succeed academically, every student needs equal access to online learning. Without this access, disconnected students can fall behind their wired peers, creating a homework gap. T-Mobile’s EmpowerED programs aims to narrow America’s homework gap by providing off-campus devices and data plans to students at eligible schools and districts.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, T-Mobile increased its data allowance for free to schools and students using T-Mobile’s EmpowerED digital learning programs to ensure each participant has access to at least 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.
Transitioning from bustling physical classrooms full of learning students to virtual spaces housed on the internet is a herculean task for any educator. Verizon, a CSG Associate, and the Verizon Innovative Learning program is part of the solution. Since 2014, the Verizon initiative has addressed barriers to digital inclusion by providing free technology, free access, hands-on experiences and professional development to transform the learning experience for under-resourced students so they can develop the skills and confidence they need to emerge as leaders. All schools in the program are classified as Title I institutions, with 84 % of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. But closed schools often mean a disruption in meals, which is why Verizon made a $5 million donation to No Kid Hungry’s coronavirus relief efforts.
When the state of Florida announced on March 13 that it would close schools in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Miami’s Rubén Darío Middle School was primed for the challenge. As a participant in Verizon Innovative Learning, each student already had a device and data plan they could use at home, making it easier for teachers to tap into the trove of digital classroom resources they were already using so students can continue learning afar.
“Verizon provided Rubén Darío Middle School’s administrators, faculty, staff and students an opportunity to transition to distance learning without any major disruption due to having devices already in hand,” said Vanessa Quintana, Verizon Innovative Learning coach at Rubén Darío. “We were equipped with the experience, skills and knowledge to facilitate learning online.”
Verizon knows student success can be tied to the right access. Usually, students receive devices with 10GB, but since March 16, Verizon increased the data plans to 30GB per. This is a crucial upgrade for families with multiple children streaming science videos, conferencing with English teachers and joining virtual band practice.