UScellular has donated 185 wireless hotspots with two years of service to Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia (160 hotspots worth about $184,160) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge (25 hotspots worth about $28,755) to help provide equitable learning access and opportunities and connect local youth during the school year. The combined value of this equipment and service would be valued at $212,915.
Hotspots have proven to be a vital tool for youth to access the Internet, study and complete homework, and these will help Boys & Girls Club members boost their connectivity on site, while also being loaned out to families to support reliable access at home. The hotspots provided to Boys & Girls Clubs connect to UScellular’s network to provide high-speed connectivity for Club members throughout the Roanoke and Martinsville areas, and each hot spot has the potential to support multiple Club members throughout any given day.
“These Boys & Girls Clubs provide an essential service for youth in our community, and we want to help ensure their members have the connectivity they need to be successful in school,” said Nakeita Smith, director of sales and operations at UScellular. “Wireless technology is key to providing broadband service to families in both urban and rural areas, and we believe that every family deserves access to reliable internet access. At UScellular, we want to do our part to ensure youth in our area have the resources they need to stay connected.”
Access to reliable connectivity causes a divide between youth who have access and those who do not. Currently, 35% of low-income households lack any access to broadband service at home. This leads to an issue known as the “homework gap” among students who lack proper internet access.
To close this gap, UScellular launched the After School Access Project, a program that provides free mobile hotspots and service to nonprofits that support youth after the school day has ended and provides safe internet access for homework and education. This is an expansion of previous hotspot donations the company provided to address connectivity needs during the pandemic. Seeing the greater need, the company has pledged to donate up to $13 million in hotspots and service to connect up to 50,000 youth in 2022. Eligible 501c3 nonprofit organizations are encouraged to apply by going to https://bit.ly/3B7zOZQ.
“When we heard the stories of youth who couldn’t get access to reliable internet for their schoolwork, we knew we had to act,” said Laurent C. Therivel, president and CEO of UScellular. “Connecting people and communities is our mission and the After School Access Project is just one way that we’re helping ensure students have the reliable access they need to grow and pursue their dreams.”
Hotspots are stand-alone Wi-Fi networks that can connect several devices at once wirelessly and have proven to be a vital tool for youth to access the internet, study and complete homework. To date in 2021, UScellular has donated 2,800 hotspots and service to 33 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, a $2.6 million investment. Clubs have used them to boost their connectivity on site and loaned the devices out to youth and their families to support reliable access at home.
Nonprofit organizations who meet the following criteria are welcomed to apply:
- Certified 501c3 nonprofit organizations
- Operate within UScellular’s service area
- Focused on kindergarten through 12th grade
- Not a school or government entity
Hotspot devices will be shipped to nonprofit organizations within 6 to 8 weeks of an approved, completed application.
“Closing the digital divide will require the involvement of many organizations and that is why we encourage nonprofits working with youth in afterschool programs to apply and use this resource to enhance the important work they are already doing,” said Therivel.
UScellular is focused on addressing gaps in STEM education and is committed to connecting more than 200,000 of tomorrow’s innovators each year with the resources they need today to help shape future opportunities. Since 2009, UScellular has donated more than $20.8 million along with countless experiences and technology items to nonprofit organizations across the country. For more information about UScellular’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, visit https://www.uscellular.com/get-to-know-us/community-outreach.