Imagine you’re the parent of a student who is receiving distance learning assignments from your child’s teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic? It can be overwhelming to think about how to switch from “parent” to “teacher” to help your child complete his or her work. Now imagine that you’re the parent of a student who is receiving distance learning assignments and you have no internet access or no tablet or laptop on which your child to do his or her work. That feeling of overwhelming turns into guilt…panic…hopelessness. Distance learning seems like an impossible feat.
When our school had to close due to the pandemic in March 2020, many of our kiddos’s families were facing this exact scenario. Adding to these struggles, many of them also hadn’t had internet access for a long time, if ever, so distance learning was just one more activity that was near impossible to complete.
“We’ve had parents tell us before how they would load up their three or four kids on a bus, go to the local McDonald’s, and all so their one or two kids of school age could do their homework using the free WiFi,” Susan Agel, President/CEO of Positive Tomorrows explains.
“These are not new struggles for our families, but this pandemic sure highlighted how much internet access truly was a barrier to education.”
The staff at Positive Tomorrows quickly got to work on finding a solution. In this time of crisis, we’ve been amazed at how our community has come together to support one another, and in this case, it was no different.
“My neighbor works at AT&T, and he was talking to his wife about wanting to do something for others during this time,” Margaret Creighton, Development Director, shared. “His wife said, ‘Honey, you know our neighbor works at Positive Tomorrows, and their families NEED internet access right now.’ The next day, I got a knock on my door from Brent with an offer to help.”
Pretty soon, Brent Brezina, an OKC area AT&T manager, had gathered enough Samsung mobile devices and mobile hotspot plans to donate to Positive Tomorrows so families who couldn’t get internet access where they were staying were still able to stay connected and their kiddos could still learn.
Cox Communications also stepped up to the call by working with Positive Tomorrows to provide affordable internet plans for families who were able to get internet access installed where they were living. Fortunately, for many of our families, their case managers had been able to get many of them into housing before the pandemic hit.
Our goal for our families is to help them establish their own plan of self-sufficiency. We’ll be able to help them with these low-cost plans if needed during this time since many of our families have lost their jobs or had hours significantly cut, and the hope is when they get back on their feet, these plans will be affordable for them to take over and keep them connected with vital resources for their continued success.
Distance learning is a huge accomplishment for our kiddos to stay connected, but we know that outside of the classroom, a lot of the work depends on the success of the whole family. Parents who cannot apply for jobs or vital resources online can fall behind or struggle to maintain the path to success they worked so hard to build.
Positive Tomorrows feels so strongly about internet access being a necessary resource in today’s world, that it is committed to continuing and pursuing partnerships like those with AT&T and Cox Communications in the future and building internet access into its program of services.