By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Underserved students throughout Jefferson County will have new computer devices during the upcoming school year, thanks to County Commissioner Sheila Tyson and corporate and foundation partners.
Tyson in partnership with New York based nonprofit, The Loyalty Foundation, which helps to acquire and distribute computers to students in need and DC Blox, an Atlanta-based data center provider with offices in Birmingham, announced on Wednesday they will provide 50 Google Chromebooks to help students with online work.
Many schools are going to remote and virtual learning with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing changes in the way many are being educated.
“Even though some of the school systems offer computers to their students, there is still a gap within the family learners on knowing how to use the computers,” said Tyson, during a press conference from the Commission Chambers on Wednesday. “These are additional steps we will use to serve families . . . offer additional help.”
Beginning next week, students and their families in areas like Henry Crompton, Harrison Park, Roosevelt City, Ensley, Brighton, Bessemer and Lipscomb will receive Chromebooks and be trained on how to use them.
The Devices4All initiative was developed by the Loyalty Foundation and the first phase of the program will distribute 50 devices with a goal to give out as many as 1,600, Tyson said.
David Neeman, founder and chairman of The Loyalty Foundation said technology is an equalizer.
“In the future you’re either programming a computer or a computer is telling you what to do and technology education is imperative for all of our kids all over,” he said. “The digital divide in this country is a terrible problem and has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic . . . education cannot be cut short by lack of access to a computer.”
Jeff Uphues, CEO of DC Blox, said his company is striving to do more in communities it serves.
“This STEM Lab that we have created has 800 kids in close proximity and another 4,500 in the area and by taking the steps and putting tools like computers into their hands, hopefully this can rise the education in this. Our mission at DC Blox has always been to serve locally and connect globally on behalf of our customers and communities,” he said.
William Barnes, president of the Birmingham Urban League, said his organization in partnership with the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers, will help to provide educational support to families.
“There are many parents that will struggle, especially during COVID-19 to really be able to help their kids with their homework and classwork,” he said. “[We will] make sure the academic gap is closed as it relates to what is happening in our communities.”