Laptops help students bridge the digital divide


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The digital divide in Rochester has been illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic as students work to keep pace with their studies.

James Smith, the President at Nativity Preparatory Academy in Rochester, discussed how a recent donation of laptops to his school has helped students and families Monday during News 8 at Sunrise.

In February, The Shore Foundation donated 50 refurbished laptops to families at Nativity. The donations were made possible by a $2,500 donation from Rochester Gas & Electric.

“Think about it from this perspective – it’s been almost a year with the pandemic and some of the challenges facing our community, and Nativity is right here in Rochester serving some dynamic families working through challenges economically, socially – you name it – and these devices, almost two devices per family not only allows our students, who now have a device at home with the device they will now have at school for one-to-one but the families themselves have the device,” Smith said.

Smith did not hesitate when asked if the digital divide is real. “It’s so real. I’ll give you an example. This past Spring during our previous school year we had one of our students trying to use an older iPhone to go into the family vehicle and Zoom into class. Can you imagine? These are 50 families and we’re so blessed to have this partnership to allow for this here at Nativity Preparatory Academy. But just imagine the tens of thousands of students across our community and others who are dealing with this divide right now.”

When it comes to full-time in-person learning, Smith believes our community is ready to embrace the challenge. “Nativity Preparatory Academy has been in-person since the fall. Now I have to be transparent. We have been very blessed to have space here in our school to allow us to set up our classrooms in a very socially distant manner with PPE in place for our students – mask-wearing, sanitation stations on every floor, a screening health check process at the beginning of their arrival at the door – so we know we’ve been very blessed. We’ve had two semesters now, two quarters in a row where we’ve had over half of our students make Honor Roll, High Honor Roll, and High Honor Roll with Distinction. In-person instruction works if we do it really intentionally. Our students are thriving now. There’s laughter in the halls and you can see the smiles under their masks with the eyes. This is really happening – the networking, the connections, the community that’s being built – we’re seeing it and so I think it can happen and I believe right now Rochester is ready for this.”

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