By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
CENTRAL FALLS – Parents and children signed up Wednesday at Central Falls High School for Connect2Compete, a program dedicated to bridging the digital divide nationally.
Cox Communications, a broadband communications and entertainment company with local headquarters in West Warwick, has partnered with Connect2Compete to help provide discount, high-speed Internet access, low-cost computers and free digital literacy training to eligible students and their families in Rhode Island.
The C2C program offers families with at least one child receiving free school lunch through the National School Lunch Program $9.95 per month internet through Cox. Families also have the opportunity to purchase a refurbished desktop computer for $150 or refurbished laptop for $199 from GoodPC, another C2C partner.
Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket have the highest population of students on free school lunch, but any student in any school who receives free lunch can participate in C2C.
Cox is working with its school partners, including school superintendents, principals and after school programs in the targeted communities to distribute bilingual flyers and toolkits before the start of the school year. Once school starts, educational opportunities will be offered during PTA/PTO meetings and parent conferences.
“In Central Falls alone nearly 2,600 students in grades K-12 receive free lunch,” said Central Falls Mayor James Diossa in a statement. “Programs like Connect2Compete help those on free lunch gain access to computers, the Internet and digital literacy. For us, Connect2Compete is the fuel that can feed the future of our young people.”
According to C2C, 50 percent of today's jobs require technology skills and there is an expectation that this number will grow to 77 percent in the next decade. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies require an online job application.
And according to a study by Broadband RI, while Rhode Island is one of the most Internet-ready states in the country, 29 percent of Rhode Island households do not have access to the Internet.
“Connect2Compete is a big step in achieving a digitally active and engaged community," said Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, who attended the event, in a statement. “Internet access at home is a critical step in helping young people excel academically and putting them on a road to a better future.”
Also in attendance at the sign-up were Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, State Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, Central Falls School Superintendent Dr. Fran Gallo, Providence School Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi and a number of families, educators and community partners.
C2C's goal is to make high-speed Internet and computers affordable to everyone. The program is a national nonprofit organization that brings leaders from communities, the private sector, and leading foundations together with local cable companies so that regardless of their age, race or education level, a person can gain access to technology through digital literacy training, discounted high-speed Internet, and low-cost computers.
“The vast majority of teachers have their students access assignments and submit assignments online, yet over 80 percent of teachers say that their students do not have sufficient access to digital tools they need to complete school assignments at home. The digital divide is a factor in this equation,” said Brian Vahaly, Connect2Compete's chief operating officer. “By providing low-cost home Internet options in Rhode Island, we hope to narrow the digital divide, ensuring all students have equal opportunities.”