by: Mark Gruba
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Area Community Foundation has established a COVID Education Fund to support the purchase of technology and home internet access for students who don’t have reliable or high-speed internet access or computers in their homes.
Simeon Banister, the Vice President for Community Programs at the RACF, discussed the goal of the fund and how the it will operate Friday during News 8 at Sunrise.
Banister explained the goal of the COVID Education Fund is to increase access to technology so students can continue learning and limit their learning loss while they study at home. A lack of technology, coupled with schools not reopening this academic year, creates a crisis that may put many children in danger of falling even further behind in their studies.
The RACF noted an April 15 report on the digital divide in Rochester, researched by The Children’s Agenda for ROC the Future, illustrates the problem. The U.S. Census indicates that 88 percent of Rochester residents have some type of computer, smart phone, or wireless device and, of those, 63 percent live in a household with a desktop or laptop. And while 80 percent of Rochester residents have broadband access, 20 percent have no internet and 17 percent rely solely on their cellular phone’s data plan. This means 37 percent of city residents have limited functionality for educational purposes.
Banister said access to technology is a problem in both urban and rural settings. In addition to providing technology like computers and laptops and internet access, the COVID Education Fund will also helps families with necessary training to properly take advantage of the technology.
The Education Fund will begin accepting grant proposals from school districts and other educational organizations starting this week. Applications will need to include a school’s or district’s strategies for meeting the technology needs of students who currently don’t have access. Grants will be awarded based on need and potential impact. For more information, email Grants@racf.org.
The Education Fund, created by the Foundation’s Board of Directors in April, is being seeded with a $170,000 grant from the Maxion Family Charitable Fund, established at the Community Foundation in 1999 by the estate of a philanthropic family. The purpose of this permanently endowed fund is to promote “education for humanity” with grants supporting, among other things, access to technology for disadvantaged populations.
An additional $51,000 has been added to the COVID Education Fund from Community Foundation fundholders. Contributions from other co-investors interested in supporting this initiative would be most welcome. Secure online donations can be made at www.racf.org/COVIDEducation. Checks payable to the fund can be mailed to Rochester Area Community Foundation, 500 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607.