With an eye toward bridging the digital divide, The Loyalty Foundation joined forces with Jefferson County and other partners to provide computers to students in underserved communities in the region.
Fifty boxes with new computers were on display today in the County Commission chambers as the joint effort was announced. Commissioner Sheila Tyson is part of the effort, along with DC BLOX, an Atlanta-based data center provider in Birmingham’s Titusville Community.
The Loyalty Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit, contributed 25 Chromebooks through its Devices4All initiative. DC BLOX, which sponsored a computer lab at Memorial Park Recreation Center across from its data center, provided the other 25 through its community initiative.
“The Loyalty Foundation believes that technology is the great equalizer of the future,” said David Neeman, the foundation’s founder and creator. “In the future, you’re either programming the computer or the computer is telling you what to do. Technology education is imperative for all of our kids all over the country.
“The digital divide in this country is a terrible problem and has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Neeman said. “Kids’ education cannot be cut short by a lack of access to a computer. The foundation’s mission is to ensure that all children, irrespective of race, gender or socioeconomic status, will have access to critical technology opportunities.”
Additional Hurdles for Needy Families
Tyson said society is encountering unprecedented times.
“Students are already suffering from economic circumstances their families are facing, and online learning is an additional hurdle for many,” she said. “Being able to provide computers to those families in need is a true blessing and helps offset some of the strain on families. I am so thankful for all of our partners in this venture.”
DC BLOX CEO Jeff Uphues expressed excitement in the chance to partner on the project, calling it a continuation of the company’s commitment to local communities by providing resources and support for access to technology and education.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequities we strive to address,” Uphues said. “We look forward to working with The Loyalty Foundation to impact other communities where we have a presence.”
Neeman said The Loyalty Foundation has worked hard to fill gaps around the country.
“What started in New York City has become a national effort,” he said. “After our conversation with DC BLOX, we were connected with Commissioner Tyson. Upon learning of the deep need in Jefferson County, we reviewed our fund allocation plans and moved quickly to secure devices for the children there.
“DC BLOX generously stepped in with a matching program, allowing us to immediately double the number of computers we could deliver and the number of children we could help.”
Tyson spoke of efforts to use the devices to help parents become more comfortable aiding their children in their education. She and others talked about training centers potentially being established at neighborhood recreation centers, sometimes relying on retired teachers to provide the instruction.
“This effort today is a blessing for some families as they face the challenges during a pandemic,” the commissioner said. “Even though some of the school systems offer computers to their students, (there is) still a gap with family members knowing how to use the computers. These are additional steps that will help serve families, plus with the partnerships, we will be able to offer additional help with the children with their education.”
Several school systems in the state also have run out of Chromebooks they had been handing out to students who are in virtual learning classes.
Tyson called the announced contributions a “pilot program” and said she hopes to secure more devices for the region. “Our goal is to get 1,600 computers to cover the whole county,” Tyson said.