One of the most iconic photographs of the 20th Century is of a young English boy hugging a new pair of shoes after World War II. And now, thanks to the implementation of NC Student Connect, a partnership between the State of North Carolina and the business world, similar 21st Century stories are happening in Swain and surrounding counties.
NC Student Connect was created to improve internet connectivity and fill gaps that are a barrier to remote learning. “When school resumed in August, school superintendents around the state estimated that at least 100,000 students still lacked a reliable internet connection at home,” said Mary Penny Kelley, executive director of Hometown Strong, the agency overseeing the initiative. “Based on county visits we made pre-pandemic, we knew we had to connect more rural students to succeed at remote learning in these challenging times, and Swain County is a great example of folks working together toward that goal.”
Tears and Digital Shouts of Joy
Swain County Schools Superintendent Mark Sale shared some recent success stories about NC Student Connect hotspots in his county, including a scene very reminiscent of the young boy and those new shoes. “A second grader couldn’t get service. His teacher gave him a hotspot to take home and use with his chromebook. He cried when he got it…..”
Another anecdote underscores the happiness of a student, but also the relief felt by a parent for technological help. “A high school freshman parent has one spot in her house that if she literally stands on a chair with her arm in the air will get cell service at some time during the day,” Sale writes. “She took one of the hotspots already available from this initiative home to try it out. She emailed me the next morning with digital shouts of joy because it worked and her son can do all of his work in the evenings now.”
In addition to hotspots, NC Student Connect is working to create accessible sites in convenient locations across the state such as school parking lots, municipal areas, and state parks, museums and historic sites. These sites will provide free high-speed internet for students to connect to the Internet to download lessons and complete assignments offline.
NC Student Connect is a partnership across state government including the Department of Information Technology (DIT), the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), Governor Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative and the NC Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), an educational nonprofit in the Governor’s Office.
Initial private sector investments in remote learning and NC Student Connect include AT&T, Duke Energy Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Google, Smithfield Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and Wells Fargo Foundation.
For more information about NC Student Connect and other programs of Hometown Strong, visit www.hometownstrong.nc.gov