New laptops to help students bridge digital divide

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By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Children at the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center Oct. 19 received new chrome laptops from AT&T and Human I-T.

The laptops were presented to students in grades three through 12 who are currently or formerly enrolled in after-school and summer programs at the center that helps the children attain grade-level proficiency, high school graduation and college and career access.

In Los Angeles, it’s estimated that nearly 150,000, or 30% of students don’t have access to high-quality connectivity and are unable to participate in the modern online world. The new laptops will help the children bridge the digital divide.

“AT&T is proud to collaborate with organizations like Human-I-T to help close the digital equity gap in Los Angeles,” said Lupita Sanchez-Cornejo, regional vice president of external affairs for AT&T. “Many students in Los Angeles lack the devices needed for online learning. Access to computers is vital in helping to bridge the digital divide and we are glad we can provide these resources to those that need them most.”

Naomi McSwain, executive director of the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, said that many of the youths at the center were struggling to complete their online homework or attend virtual classes given by their schools.

“Some of the kids’ laptops were so old they couldn’t access the website,” McSwain said, adding that the Wooten Center provides free after-school and low-cost summer programs. “Either they didn’t have WiFi at home because they couldn’t afford it or the WiFi connection was so bad that they could not log in to the internet at all. That would prompt them to drop out of their classes,” she said.

Wide smiles greeted the distributors who handed the laptops to the children and their parents as they drove up in their cars to receive their laptops.

“There will be six technical assistants available to help them set up their computers,” McSwain said. “The children will be able to schedule appointments for the service on our website.”

McSwain said she is grateful to AT&T and Human I-T for providing the laptops.

“I was like ‘Wow.’ This is an early Christmas miracle,” she said. “We have been dealing for the last two years with kids having issues with technology. Not just because of the lack of a computer, but the lack of a good computer so that they can access the websites they need.

“Not only did they receive laptops, but they will get WiFi and technical support for a year. It’s an early Christmas gift for everyone,” she added.

McSwain said that nearly 135 children signed up to receive the laptops, and she is hoping that someone in the community will step forward to offer 35 more laptops to the children who are still on the waiting list.

The effort is part of AT&T’s month-long “Bridge to Possibility Closing the Digital Divide, Together” campaign. As part of the campaign, more than 1,000 laptops will be distributed to students and families across the country.

The Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center is a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 by Myrtle Faye Rumph in honor of her son, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.

The AT&T Connected Learning Initiative was created as part of a $2 billion commitment to address the digital divide through internet accessibility, affordability and safe adoption.

“We’re very grateful that corporations like ATT and nonprofits like Human I-T are making things happen and giving kids the quality technology they need to do their best,” McSwain said.

The Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center is located at 9106 S. Western Ave.

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.

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