Local nonprofit helps bridge digital divide for families with laptops, low-cost internet

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SAN DIEGO – A Miramar-based nonprofit is helping local families connect to the internet at a time when some 90% of California students are starting their school years doing distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Computers 2 Kids CEO Chéri Pierre

Volunteers and workers in the Computers 2 Kids program are refurbishing donated laptops at a warehouse in Miramar. The program specifically targets needy families requiring access to laptops and the internet to do school assignments and connect with educators.

“These devices are going to enable these kids to connect to Zoom, talk to their teachers, to their homework,” said Computers 2 Kids CEO Chéri Pierre, “and it’s very critical right now for them to continue their school.”

Since area schools were shuttered for in-person instruction in mid-March, the program has provided to families roughly 18,000 laptops at a reduced price. All come with educational software and tech support, which many low-income families might not otherwise be able to afford.

Computers 2 Kids also partners with Cox Communications in a program called Connect2Compete to offer families low-cost internet, available in an application process that runs through the end of September.

“It’s going to help out considerably with him, his technology — he’s special needs so he’s learning,” said Ursula Manley, a local mother. “He’s digital as it is, so this is going to help him explore on his own without using my computer.”

Crane Guerra, a Cox representative, said families who sign up for the Connect2Compete program receive two free months of internet, which should “help them get back into school easier.”

According to Computers 2 Kids, one in four students have no access to online learning, a digital divide which has vexed leaders nationwide, including Gov. Gavin Newsom. On Friday, Newsom called distance learning a “suboptimal” experience for students, but said the state must support students and teachers for prolonged periods of distance learning as the pandemic stretches on into the late summer.

In its own way, Computers 2 Kids is helping close that divide for many local families.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Manley said. “He’s got his own ThinkPad (laptop computer), I mean he’s going to dig (it),” adding, “I am appreciative of this service so much.”

“I’m going to cry because I’m a joyful crybaby, but I am extremely appreciative,” she said.

To apply for the program or to learn how to donate, visit c2sdk.org.

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