As our Sound Shore communities begin to emerge from the pandemic and, although life has not yet returned to pre-Covid-19 order, the promise of normalcy looms large on Westchester's horizon. Yet, for many, particularly those among the immigrant populations in our community, pre-pandemic normal had its own hurdles to jump daily, perhaps the highest of which was the already existing digital divide.
With the onset of the pandemic came and the implementation of distance learning, our world moved online. From school to grocery shopping, entertainment, and connection to others, we relied on the internet more than ever. Most of us didn't give our access to digital connectivity much thought. We had technology - devices, high-speed internet, and knowledge of how to use them. It was there as it always had been, even when we couldn't secure an InstaCart delivery slot. But the reality of digital inequity suffered by those in underserved and marginalized populations was laid bare for all to see.
Enter The Loyalty Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded on the belief that technology is the great equalizer and access to it, and tech education is the key to successful futures for all children. In March of 2020, when Covid 19 shut down schools and denied students in underserved communities access to any type of education, the organization launched a new program, "Devices4All," providing computers to students without them. After a year dedicated to donating devices to kids around the country in places like Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan, and Birmingham, Alabama, the Loyalty Foundation was made aware of the Community Resource Center (CRC) and the often forgotten recent immigrant community it serves.
Loyalty founder David Neeman then connected with CRC Director Jirandy Martinez and STEM Alliance President Meg Kaufer. The three nonprofit organizations worked together with Loyalty delivering the devices to CRC constituents that would enable the STEM Alliance to expand digital education programs to children of CRC families aged 6-16.
The new program was introduced on March 12, with the first session geared to 10 and 11-year-old students and their parents, who together began digital skills classes in the CRC's all-purpose room. After completing their first class on their new Chromebooks that Friday, students headed home, new devices in hand, excited to engage with virtual learning and other activities in the same way so many of their Larchmont and Mamaroneck classmates have always done.
"We are so pleased to have been introduced to the CRC and The STEM Alliance, learn about the incredible work they do, and meet their dedicated staffs. Everyone that helped make this happen is so committed and supportive," said Neeman. "We couldn't have made the impact we did here without the work of the CRC's Jirandy Martinez, Luis Zarate, Marco Bohorquez, Adrian Davila, and Meg Kaufer of the STEM Alliance, and we look forward to collaborating on future opportunities," he added.
Cohorts of additional age groups receive their devices and commence lessons in April.