Eva Jenkins’ three school-age children — Ethan, 5; Andrew, 12; and Jade, 17 — received tablets from Pendleton County schools for remote learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. But as Eva points out, “The devices don’t do any good unless you have Wi-Fi or an internet connection.”
The family, its income slashed by the pandemic, could not afford that. So, they tried bartering: eggs in exchange for a neighbor’s Wi-Fi password. All three children sat at the kitchen table — the only spot in their home where a connection was available — but lack of bandwidth led to extremely slow internet speeds, frustrating glitches, and an inability use required apps. The only other option, which Eva dismissed as impractical, was to load up the children in a vehicle and park close enough to a library or school to obtain free Wi-Fi.
Two months into the school year, kindergartner Ethan, sixth-grader Andrew, and high school senior Jade were falling behind. Concerns were raised that Jade might not earn the credits needed to graduate. “It was difficult for the kids and me,” their mother says.
Recognizing that many families faced similar challenges, United Way of Greater Cincinnati launched the NKY Digital Equity Initiative. It provides internet access for a year to more than 2,000 students in 1,125 homes across 16 school districts.
The Jenkins home was connected to the internet in late October. “It’s a big relief,” Eva says. “It’s really helped us.” Indeed, all her children are now caught up on academics, and Jade is on track for graduation.
But COVID-19 has not been conquered, and as a new year begins with many school districts reverting to online learning, people continue to struggle. Indeed, because of job losses and furloughs, many families can no longer afford to pay for internet services.
The next phase of United Way’s Digital Equity project will introduce a package that provides faster internet speeds for needy households with multiple children. Your support is needed to make it happen. Please consider a donation to United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Because united is the way to help.