By Doug Michelman, President, 1Million Project Foundation, Sprint
As summer winds down and students head back to school across the country, the 1Million Project Foundation team is ramping up year three of our program. This school year, we plan to welcome more than 100,000 new high school students and approximately 70 new districts, as well as two new states (Kansas and Kentucky) to our initiative to bridge the homework gap. This means that by the end of the 2019 school year, we expect that more than 340,000 students in 250 districts across 35 states will have the critical connectivity needed to succeed in school today.
Right here in the U.S., there are more than five million families with school age children who do not have home internet access. Yet, a rising number of teachers assign homework online, making access to the internet as basic as textbooks for students who want to succeed in school. For many Americans who have readily available internet access, it can be difficult to understand the toll this obstacle takes on our students.
A recent Pew study on the digital divide found that 17% of teens say they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection. This issue is even more prevalent for black teens. One-quarter of those students say they are at least sometimes unable to complete their homework due to a lack of digital access, with 13% of black teens saying that this happens to them often.
After visiting many of our districts during the past two years, you begin to see the momentous impact that our program has on so many young lives. To be able to go home and work on assignments without worrying about how they’ll connect to the internet provides these students with a peace of mind they lacked before they received their hotspot or smartphone. Never again will they have to worry about having the same access as their peers.
Each of the high school students in our program now receives 10 GBs of high-speed data every month. That’s more than enough to do the online research needed for homework assignments, stream required videos, engage in virtual tutoring, study for the SAT on Khan Academy and Skype videoconference with teachers or classmates. We’re confident that the ample amount of data we’re offering will help our students fulfill the promise of their potential.
In addition to this year’s increase in monthly, per-student high-speed data allocation, we’re excited to work with two amazing organizations, College Board and Teach For America (TFA). Our relationship with College Board helps expand scholarship opportunities for our students, while TFA will help the 1Million Project recruit more students. Together, we will provide opportunities for our program to reach more students and ultimately help them create their own legacies by providing them with the tools necessary to excel.
Although I’m immensely proud of the progress we have made in our first two years, we still have work to do if we want to close the homework gap. In year three of the 1Million Project, we have the opportunity to impact more students’ lives than we’ve ever had, but we cannot do this essential work alone. Join us in continuing to grow our efforts at http://www.1millionproject.org/donate.