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DavidsonNews.net

1 Year Later, E2D Aims Wider: Closing Tech Gap Across CMS

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Davidson-based nonprofit E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide) was founded in early 2013 to put computers in the hands of Davidson Elementary School students whose families could not afford them. One year, thousands of donated dollars, and hundreds of laptops later, the organization has nearly achieved that goal – in both Davidson and Cornelius. And co-founder Pat Millen is thinking even bigger – ending the digital divide throughout Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

In May, the organization will deliver computers to students who need them at Bailey Middle School, the last public school in Cornelius and Davidson on its list. That’s after doing the same at elementary schools in both towns and at W.A. Hough High School.

Then, Millen told the Davidson Town Board Tuesday, it’s on to elementary and high schools in Huntersville.

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Pat Millen addressed the Davidson Town Board Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

 “And then we’re ambitious,” he added. “We would like … to find a solution that will take care of it for all of CMS.” That could mean another 75,000 students, he said.

In just over a year, the effort has drawn community, government and corporate support, turning a simple idea into a movement. To reach the wider goal, lots more supported will be needed, including about $4 million, Millen estimates.

As we reported a year ago, it all started when Millen’s daughter Franny, then a seventh grader at Bailey Middle School, observed to her parents that some kids lacked basics at home, including computers. Test results show, not surprisingly, that students from lower-income backgrounds lag behind their peers. The technology gap is a critical factor.

So working with her dad, mom Eileen Keeley and brother Paddy Millen, they developed a plan to solve the problem.

Since then, they’ve attached themselves to the nonprofit Ada Jenkins Center, a regional community services organization in Davidson; raised money; obtained a gift of 500 used computers from Lowe’s Corp. in Mooresville, lined up Davidson College students as volunteer trainers; and cut a deal for discounted internet service from MI-Connection Communications System, the Lake Norman area cable system owned by the towns of Davidson and Mooresville.

They’ve handed out 200 laptops to students in need and provided dozens of hours of training so they and their parents can do something as simple as send an email to a teacher – something they couldn’t do before.

“If you think about how many times you’ve used a computer today,” Millen said, looking around the Davidson Town Board meeting room, where commissioners tapped on iPads, reporters used laptops and residents looked at smartphones. “The average family that has means, that has access to digital devices, has between 7 and 10 in their homes.”

“We are trying to get families their very first devices,” Millen said. And the deal with MI-Connection for a reduced-rate internet package, “helps them get their first internet access in their homes.

Meanwhile, with the help of Davidson College volunteers, E2D now offers training sessions every other Tuesday at Ada Jenkins Center. “That’s something we’ve got to ramp up more to make it sustainable,” Millen said.

Just how much is the program helping? Hough High principal Laura Rosenbach offered her thoughts in a letter of support to E2D this week, saying technology is essential.

“Almost every teacher assigns projects and resources that require a device and an internet connection. By ensuring that every student has the ability to access the material and resources they need, we feel confident that we are providing our students with equal opportunities to be successful, regardless of income level.”

When she notified 75 students at Hough that they were about to receive laptops and internet access, their reactions made it “one of the best days I have had in my career as an administrator.”

“The students reacted by jumping up and down, crying and flashing huge smiles,” she said. “When they walked out of the room a few weeks later, trained and ready to use their own computer, they held their heads up high and had a joyful bounce in their steps.”

RELATED LINKS AND COVERAGE

See all past coverage of E2D on DavidsonNews.net.

Feb. 27, 2013, “E3D’s goal: Eliminate Davidson’s Digital Divide”

Find out how to make a donation or volunteer on the E2D website, http://www.e-2-d.org/

Keep up with the latest E2D news on the E2D Facebook page.