Youngstown, Ursuline, Valley Christian schools launch pioneering city internet program


Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

Beginning next school year, low-income high school students from the Youngstown City School District, Valley Christian Schools and Ursuline High who don’t already have it will get home internet connectivity.

The Youngstown district partnered with the other two schools to participate in the 1 Million Project. Through the program, part of Sprint and the Sprint Foundation, low-income high school students who don’t already have home internet access can get connected to close the “homework gap.”

“This is amazing,” said CEO Krish Mohip. “Students who don’t have home internet access certainly have a disadvantage compared to those who do. This will help us put more of our students on a level playing field with students from other, higher-income homes.”

The project runs for five years with a goal to provide internet access to 1 million U.S. high school students.

“This grant will allow us to move forward into the next phase of our 1:1 program, which is allowing our students to take their devices home,” said John LaPlante, the city school district’s chief information officer. “The lack of internet access at home was a concern, so this opportunity will help give some of those students a helping hand in using their devices at home. We are excited to roll this out to students next year.”

It was actually Valley Christian’s president who approached LaPlante. That school didn’t qualify for the program on its own because it doesn’t have the required number of high school students: 1,200.

“On behalf of our Youngstown city resident students and their families, I am excited that Valley Christian Schools has been invited to participate in the Sprint 1 Million Program,” said Michael Pecchia. “It is a great collaboration between public and private schools that are trying to provide a state-of-the-art education to students in Youngstown.”

Ursuline’s principal agreed.

“We are grateful to Mr. John LaPlante and the Youngstown City School District for including Ursuline in their grant application,” said Matthew Sammartino. “The grant will bring internet to the homes of many students to allow easy access to online textbooks, research databases and test prep programs and ultimately will impact student achievement.”

“Homework gap” refers to the fact that while about 70 percent of U.S. teachers assign internet-based homework, nearly half of the nation’s 14-to-18-year-olds complete their homework using a computer at the local library, according to the program’s website.

“Like you, we believe in hard work and in potential,” says the email from the 1 Million Project, notifying the district of its acceptance. “We believe all students are curious, want a bright future and are willing to work hard to earn it. Because of these shared values – yours, Sprint’s and the 1Million Project’s – we’re confident our collective efforts will lead to richer learning experiences for your students and a better chance for success in school and life.”

The first year, the partnership schools will get 300 devices – likely wireless hot spots. The number of devices may vary over the five-year program.

But the program’s website says participation in the 1 Million Project is about more than bridging the “homework gap.”

“You’ll be helping [students] participate in today’s digital world and empowering them to do more and strive for more,” it says.

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