“I was raised by a single mother,” she said. “The money my mom makes only helps us pay for what we need, but to have a laptop or internet is difficult.”
Ramirez, now a senior at Chapel Hill High School, had to do all of her homework at school, but limited time to use school computers made that difficult.
“I would have to get to school before school started, and the earliest I could get here is 8 a.m., and school starts at 8:45, so I have 45 minutes to finish my work,” she said. “Or I stay after school until 5 or 5:30 p.m. writing papers or taking video notes that my teacher used to give.”
Everything changed in 2014, when Ramirez received a laptop and free internet access through Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Community Connection Program — a partnership with Verizon Wireless and UNC’s Technology Without Borders.
The district established the program to address the digital divide by providing laptops and internet access to at-risk students. Currently in its second phase, the program will give 120 Chromebooks and Verizon Wi-Fi Jetpacks to students in the system’s four high schools next week.
In 2013, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law shifting textbook funding to digital learning by 2017. Public school students will have to rely on the internet for learning materials.