Cristo Rey students get belated Christmas gift from Santa T-Mobile

Cristo Rey Sophomore Nykla Spann learns how to use the T-Mobile hotspot. (Photo courtesy Becky Summers, Cristo Rey)

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, one-fifth of adults who lived in households making annual incomes of less than $30,000 were “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but have no wi-fi or internet device at home.

For high school and college students, homework and projects become daunting challenges when home has no internet connection. The digital divide shows up at school in what has been called the “homework gap” – students who have access to high-speed internet at home and those who don’t.

Sophomore Nykla Spann said, “Cristo Rey provides us with tablets, however, we go home at night and don’t have the Internet.  If you don’t have time to go to the library to use the Internet, getting homework finished is tough.”

Some 5 million school-age children do not have a broadband internet connection at home, with low-income households accounting for a disproportionate share. Despite a 1:1 technology program that puts a device in the hands of every student at Cristo Rey Kansas City, 60 percent of the student body goes home at night to a home without internet access.

Nykla explained how the “digital divide” or lack of internet access at home can work against a student. “Last year, we were put into teams to research and present information on the death penalty. My job was to create a Power Point. I was struggling to get this finished by the day we were assigned to make our presentation. I arrived at school at 6:50 each morning and did work on it every morning! On the final day, I was racing to be done by the time school started at 7:30. Having a mobile hot spot would have made a huge difference.”

Shortly after Christmas, T-Mobile narrowed that divide for Cristo Rey Kansas City students through EmpowerED™, a program that provides wireless devices and service plans to help students and schools succeed. Every student at the school will receive a mobile hotspot and unlimited data that they can use at home or anywhere they need internet access. The hot spot comes with a two-year plan for the line fee.  So, it’s a win-win for the students. After learning of the program, Cristo Rey’s administration submitted documentation of the critical need and has been approved for participation.

Since opening in 2006, 100 percent of Cristo Rey Kansas City’s graduates have been accepted to college, with 63 percent graduating from college. Currently the high school serves 386 students.

And now students will be able to complete homework and projects at home, research or study for tests, thanks to “EmpowerED,” which bridges the digital divide. Just look at Nykla’s smile as the trainer shows her how to use the hot spot.

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Friday
August 17, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph