Internet access is such an essential part of our lives. Yet sometimes, we take it for granted. It’s hard to imagine that some household don’t even have Wi-Fi and for some families, it’s still considered a luxury.
"All the high school students in the district, asking for them to self-identify if they had internet barriers and what we did," Shellie Taylor said, from the Lee County School District, "we took that entire list and then we paired it with the students who were found to have one or more indicators under our early warning system.”
The “1 Million Project” is helping 2,500 high school students and their families get connected to the internet at home for the first time. It operates through free wireless hotspots. The Lee County School District is one of just 122 districts nationwide selected to participate in the "1 Million Project."
Rosey Perez, assistant principal of Island Coast High School, knows that a lot of the textbooks are already online. These modems will help the students access the databases where these online textbooks are stored.
"If they are at any other location, grandma’s house, grandpa, it doesn’t matter," Perez said. "They will have internet service."
The modems given out to these students is part of a plan to help eliminate the “homework gap” that puts disadvantaged students at a major disadvantage. The homework gap happens because the students do not have access to the Internet, which is needed for completing homework, communicating with teachers and applying for jobs, scholarships or college.
With this opportunity, students hope to do better in school. Students like Dustin Kendall is hopeful that this new tool will help him accomplish his goals.
“I want to go to the army and be a diesel mechanic," Dustin said, a high school student. "What if I can do this, what if I can do that, I can actually start doing things like homework school work at home.”
The district hopes this initiative can provide more opportunities to students like Dustin that need Wi-Fi.
“Students have the chrome books, students are taking the chrome books home," Shellie Taylor said, from the Lee County School District. "Even if they don’t have their own device, this is an opportunity for their own chrome book to have internet access.”
But for Dustin, this means more than just surfing the web.
"I can actually get my grades and I can graduate," Dustin said. "I will be the first one to graduate in my family."
The devices are also being distributed at all 14 high schools and the Lee Adolescent Mothers Program (LAMP). Once a student graduates, they must return the device to the school. Then, it can be used by another student.
“My sister she needs it, too. But I was like, 'I'm not given it out to you, nope,'" Dustin said, "But I’m not going to be selfish and I’m going to share it with her that way she can also get her work done.”
The hotspot modem the students will receive from the project will offer three gigabytes of high-speed data every month. If all three gigs are used, free access after that will be at slower speeds.
Shellie Taylor said they are in a hopeful stage right now because this is the first time the district has ever had this project.
"We are really passionate that it’s going to make a difference,” Taylor said.