One was the story of Gregory. He had checked out a hotspot in September at the very beginning of the program. Looking back, no one realized what impact it would make on his motivation and potentially his life path. Gregory was struggling with the speed and intensity of school because his life was absorbing all of his time and energy. Gregory wanted to do well in school. He wanted to be the first in his family to graduate high school and attend college. Gregory had dreams. Unfortunately, the last bell of the school day was the last chance that he had to truly devote to school.
Gregory had a job that helped to support his family from 3:30 p.m. to at least 9 p.m. every day, and when he arrived home, there was no access to the internet. He would often wake up early to work in the parking lot of his school until it opened. He was behind in school. He was behind in credits. He was losing grasp on his dreams. Gregory used his new access to perfection. He used time after work, weekends, and little moments of calm at work to get his learning back on track. This success alone sold the program to the school community and beyond.
Our program at Affton gives kids safe access during those essential learning hours beyond school in a way that they can count on. It provides equity for our students in a way that society rarely affords those that navigate poverty on a daily basis. By partnering with Kajeet and our community, we have been able to leverage new learning for our students and our families in a way that builds community capacity. This program has also pushed the district to look for other ways to remove barriers for families using technology tools and shifts in our culture and traditions.
Robert Dillon is director of technology and innovation for Affton School District in St. Louis and the author of Leading Connected Classrooms.