Most of us agree that a well-rounded education is one of the most important things we can provide for children in our communities. Education opens the door to opportunity and can level the playing field.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that not every student comes to school prepared to learn. Though many factors contribute to that, one of the most prevalent is poverty.
This year has been a particularly tough one for students and teachers (and parents!). Remote learning has been challenging for all, and has illuminated how economic inequity makes it more difficult for some children to learn.
Some homes simply aren’t equipped with the technology or tools the children need to participate fully in online classes.
Fortunately, we live in a community that responds thoughtfully and generously to this type of challenge.
In August, several local groups and faith-based organizations, along with concerned citizens and donors, approached Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to help them formulate a creative approach to ensure students – particularly those at-risk – were provided the virtual learning tools they need to keep up with their peers.
Working with All Saints Episcopal Church, the MLK Committee for Justice and Hargray Communications, the Student Tech Connect Fund was established with their donations, as well as generous donations from individual donors and fund advisors. The mission of the fund is to provide technology resources so students can connect with their teachers and access critical learning resources.
The fund’s first efforts provided connectivity to qualified families without internet connection, through Hargray’s Jumpstart program.
Then, when we learned that the actual delivery of virtual instruction was being hampered by inefficient equipment, the Student Tech Connect Fund funded 88 cameras to help Hilton Head Island High School teachers with both in-class and online instruction. These special cameras track teachers as they move throughout the classroom, allowing students to better follow along.
The largest project has been Pre-K and Early Childhood virtual classrooms. Study after study shows the importance of Pre-K education in preparing children for school. Though the school district provides devices and hot spots to K-12 students, Pre-K students do not qualify.
Community Foundation’s Student Tech Connect Fund has stepped up with a $54,784 grant to purchase digital curriculum for 64 early childhood special education classrooms, reaching 1,000 students. The curriculum engages both children and their parents and is accessible 24/7, so parents who are working can log on any time. Lessons are in both English and Spanish.
I’m new to the community and I’m impressed with how people came together to identify a need, then work to find a solution.
The Community Foundation can serve as a conduit for ideas, a convener of groups and an implementer of plans. In this instance, it’s not just the students, teachers and families who win, it’s the entire community.
Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.