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In The News

The Power of Digital Access
By Jeff Stodghill, Chairman, Newport News School Board

(05/18/2015) -Today, most of us don't give a second thought about access to the Internet for all sorts of things that have become essential to conduct our daily routine at home, at work and at play. In school this is especially the case where children are exposed to the latest technology in their classrooms and use the Internet as a gateway to learning, information and exploration. While many children have the same technology and access at home which allows them to retrieve homework assignments, communicate with their teachers and research topics online, many children in our community do not have what is now essential in the 21st Century - a computer with Internet access in their home.

Access to the digital world, specifically the Internet, is an absolute necessity today for every student. For years, colleges have required students to have their own computers. It's estimated that 76 percent of K-12 teachers assign Internet-based homework. Where does that leave children who don't have broadband Internet access at home?

Home computers, in addition to broadband Internet service, remove one more barrier to ensuring that students have what they need to succeed in school and in life. Success in school goes well beyond the doors of the classroom, as the computer skills that are learned spill over into students' daily lives, assisting families in maintaining their budgets, obtaining employment, getting proper healthcare and engaging their communities.

The Internet empowers children and is too critical to be an issue of the haves and the have-nots. It's a tool that equals the playing field so that children are set up for success, and Newport News Public Schools is working with organizations that make this possible.

Last fall we joined VA STAR, The Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment program. Through VA STAR, students at Heritage High School refurbish surplus hardware from state agencies or private companies and donate them to families and organizations that need a computer. A win-win situation, students in the VA STAR program earn IT repair certifications and skill sets that can develop into well-paying jobs.

This spring we partnered with Cox Communications and its Connect2Compete program to provide 40 free desktop computers and reduced-cost Internet services to economically disadvantaged students and their families. By providing our students with computers and low-cost home broadband service, they are now able to complete schoolwork in their own homes rather than having to go to a neighborhood library or fast food restaurant to access the Internet over a public WiFi service. Our partnership with Cox enabled us to take positive steps toward bringing our students into the digital world so they can use it on their own terms.

By helping people get online, Cox is linking them with the tools, resources, and information they need to transform their lives and their communities. And, by receiving these tools in the beginning of their school years, these youth are not only better prepared to succeed in school -- they are better prepared to face the challenges of obtaining higher education through college or training programs. This program demonstrates the powerful impact one company can have on its local school district and our children.

We also share resources through Cox's TakeCharge! Initiative so that families learn how to keep children safe online.

To learn more about these programs, visit www.cox.connect2compete.org and www.vastar.org. For more about how to improve your digital literacy, visit www.cox.com/takecharge. We invite you to check out these resources and join us in ending the digital divide.