As Maribel Cortes watched her two daughters open their laptops and dive into online classes when the government ordered schools to shut down, there was one thing she couldn’t get out of her mind — all the kids in Cincinnati that didn’t have laptops to open.
“I saw them very engaged in front of their laptops, which then made me wonder how our community’s low-income students were doing,” Cortes said. “That was my trigger. I thought about all the kids within the CPS district who probably didn’t have the privileges needed to continue their education at home. It just broke my heart.”
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said the COVID-19 pandemic has made keeping up with school especially difficult for students in low-income families, many of which are Hispanic.
“The very sad piece of it is that the lower you are on the economic scale, the more this is impacting you," said chamber president Alfanso Cornejo. “So they don’t have computers. They don’t have internet access. They have a lot of barriers.”
Cortes saw those barriers too. She found out that hundreds of English-language-learner students in the Cincinnati Public School system did not have a computer at home.
But as a project manager at GE, a member of the GE Aviation Hispanic Forum and a volunteer at the chamber, Cortes happened to be in just the right position to get something done.
She worked with GE to donate 25 refurbished laptops. On top of that, the chamber reached out to other community partners and now has 500 computers to give to CPS students.
“It truly defines Cincinnati. It truly defines how we will continue to grow stronger even after this pandemic,” said Marie Kobayashi, CPS curriculum manager for English as a second language.
CPS officials said these computers will not only help children complete work, it will also help families get in touch with social services and other resources that are operating online during the pandemic.
“It is like giving our families a lifeline to the many social services and supports that they need,” Kobayashi said.
CPS already lends computers to students in 5th through 12th grades, but the computers donated through the chamber’s program will be the students’ to keep forever.
With no clear definition of what school will look like in the fall, maintaining access to computers is even more important.
“I think everyone feels like they’re on the same page when we say some form of blended learning will continue in the future,” said CPS teacher Sarah Madrigal. "So this isn’t maybe just for the next couple months.”
Another crucial tool for online learning is internet access. Anyone interested in donating a device to a student or helping pay for the cost of reliable internet access can do so through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.