There’s no doubt that remote learning is more important than it’s ever been, with schools in Delaware having shut down in March due to the COVID-19 State of Emergency through the end of the school year. And that has threatened to widen the education gap, as children in underresourced areas have limited or no access to a laptop or a library.
Wilmington Councilwoman-at-large Rysheema Dixon recently coordinated a giveaway, in collaboration with NerdIT NOW and Influencers Lab Media, that provided 40 computers to students who attend Warner Elementary School in Wilmington and were identified by the school’s teachers and administrators.
It started with a request from Influencers Lab Media, who contacted her looking for information on how many school aged children in Wilmington needed computers and Wi-Fi.
“I decided to get the word out by doing a Facebook Live event in April, and started receiving requests right away,” said Dixon. “Kelly Green, a School Counselor at Warner, sent me a message regarding her students. She was super excited about getting them access to computers for remote learning.”
With a need identified, Dixon was able to coordinate with NerdIT NOW, whose NerdIT Foundation received funding from Capital One to provide laptops and devices to people who don’t have them.
On Thursday, Dixon and NerdIT Now provided 40 computers — enough for each of the students identified — to Warner, where its chairman, Markevis Gideon, attended elementary school. Among those also in attendance were New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and his team.
“We are always looking for more funding to provide more students with computers as distance learning continues,” Dixon said. “People should talk about the digital divide and work hand-in-hand to get students the access they need and Wi-Fi.”
The NERDiT Foundation is also working on bringing Wi-Fi to 50 Delaware families. Their goal is to provide 20,000 computers to people who need them for work and school in 2020. Since the COVID-19 State of Emergency began, the NERDiT Foundation has given out over 600 computers to individuals and organizations including the Latin American Community Center, Greater Lewes Community Village and Strive.
“Moving forward, Markevis and The NERDiT Foundation are building a workforce development program to provide tech job skills for Wilmingtonians and people who come from marginalized communities in the Tri State Area,” said NerdIT NOW partner and NerdIT Foundation board officer Jake Voorhees. Voorhees, board officer Jasmine Morton-Thompson and project manager Sara Grace Fulton are leading the project.
To help ensure people have access to the internet, there are free WhyFly Wi-Fi spots across the City of Wilmington, and Comcast is offering free access for new customers.
“I am ecstatic that I was able to coordinate all of this,” said Dixon.”Nothing brings me more joy than supporting our students.”