Students celebrating APS Digital Bridge partnership with T-Mobile

Students celebrating APS Digital Bridge partnership with T-Mobile which provides free access to Internet and technology. Photo: Courtesy APS/T-Mobile

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - For 8th grader Quintavious Carter finishing homework used to be challenging.

"At home before, I didn’t have any access to Internet at all," said Quintavious, who attends Brown Middle School.

Quintavious is one of thousands of middle school students provided with a Windows laptop and high-speed Internet to make learning and studying outside the classroom accessible.

"I was able to do all my work online. Instead of having to rely on the public library," he said.

The Digital Bridge program is working to close the digital divide for 6,000 middle school students in Atlanta Public Schools.

The digital divide refers to the growing gap between those who have access to technology and those who don't, typically low-income communities.

The program is powered in part by a $1.4 million award from the T-Mobile EmpowerEd Program.

“T-Mobile believes every child deserves the tools they need to be successful in today’s fast-paced, digital world," said David Bezzant, senior director of Public Sector at T-Mobile. "And our EmpowerED program furthers this goal of helping the next generation reach their full potential."

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, one-fifth of adults in low-income households did not have access to broadband Internet.

In APS, nearly 76% of all students meet the federal poverty guidelines and are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Through the digital bridge program, 6th and 7th graders were provided with laptops, and a T-Mobile 4G LTE Wifi hotspot which allows students to connect to high-speed Internet when Wifi isn't available.

As technology advances, students lacking access will be academically left behind, said 6th grade math teacher, Jennifer Park of Brown Middle School.

"With the access to technology, students are learning to collaborate with their peers, building critical thinking skills and put into practice problem solving by taking ownership of their learning," she said.

The digital divide program was also funded by $3 million in APS operating funds, and includes new digital tools and online tutoring assistance support to students.

"Many of these schools are overlooked when it comes to technology and so supporting Atlanta Public Schools with our EmpowerED resources was a no-brainer," said Brad Nash, vice president, Southeast at T-Mobile.

The program - which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in February - ensures students have access to the digital tools and resources needed to be academically successful and competitive.

Arlice Sconyers, a 6th grade math teacher at Brown Middle School, said she already sees the impact.

“Before access to this program, most students didn't complete homework nor assignments that needed the internet," said Sconyers. "Students struggled with maintaining or competing with their peers on those concepts that needed extra practice, which was made available through the use of the computer and Internet.”

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