United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s NKY Digital Equity Initiative for Students has provided more than 2,000 students with access to technology and opportunities to participate in virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of work slowdowns, furloughs, and job losses during the pandemic, many families have been unable to afford internet service. That's why United Way of Greater Cincinnati partnered with Cincinnati Bell (renamed AltaFiber in 2022) and others to establish the NKY Digital Equity Initiative which helps provide families with high-speed internet for one year.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s NKY Digital Equity Initiative for Students has provided more than 3,700 students with access to technology and opportunities to participate in virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the program’s launch before the 2020-21 school year, 16 Northern Kentucky school districts have benefited and 1,670+ homes have been connected.
These efforts resulted in UWGC’s Northern Kentucky Area Center being awarded the 2021 Business Engagement of the Year Award during the annual Excellence in Education Celebration presented by the Northern Kentucky Education Council and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
The Business Engagement of the Year Award recognizes a local organization or business that works with Northern Kentucky schools to improve student achievement through activities such as mentoring, internships, job shadowing, STEM activities, literacy coaching, Junior Achievement, First Lego League, and service-learning.
Eva Jenkins' three school-age children–Ethan, 5; Andrew, 12; and Jade, 17– eceived 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.
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.