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LA City Philanthropy Steps-Up in Efforts to Retain Digital Orphans in College

College campuses all over the nation canceled classes amid COVID-19 concerns, but while many students maintain social distancing, others study in their bedrooms or elsewhere away from campus.

But there is another group. On a Wednesday afternoon, students sit on benches shaded by umbrellas in the community garden next to the Chemistry Building. They are digital orphans—students who come to campus to study because they do not have WiFi.

One student stands outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, which is closed.

“I don’t have anywhere to go when I am not a student,” said Scott Oliver, a 19-year-old psychology major.

Students like Oliver and Chereya Evans, whose major is political science both struggle to find places with a strong Internet connection to get their schoolwork done. Evans only has one iPad, and she shares it with her child who attends elementary school.

“I’m struggling with schoolwork online, but also struggling to keep this kid entertained without garbage content,” Evans said. “There isn’t enough [connection].”

In response, L.A. City College officials organized support to bring these digital orphans online. On Sunday, March 22, Los Angeles City College gave away 300 laptops to students who qualified for the program. The program received over 8,000 applications according to a memorandum from the college.

Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez wrote in an email on March 11 that students will continue to submit assignments online until further notice. While campuses remain closed, school officials promote platforms like Canvas and Zoom, to facilitate class activities.

Self-motivation is very challenging, but it is not the answer for everything,” L.A. City College professor of Law Richard Lewis told students during a Zoom conference. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Lewis provided students with an extension to submit homework online to help accommodate students affected by the new normal.

A 2017 survey from the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies found 31 percent of Californians do not have high-speed Internet and a computer at home. Spectrum has been providing free and affordable Internet Access since the enactment of Internet legislation in 2017.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reached an emergency deal with Verizon to provide access for those in need.

The California Public Utilities Commission reported that 43 percent of rural households lack access to broadband at home with around 424,000 families without a proper connection to do work, conduct research, or even chat in times of quarantine.

The current COVID-19 situation has complicated life even more for students and families without internet service or computers.

The LACCD Fund is accepting applications for laptops and scholarships to students who lack access to broadband at home through the Los Angeles City College District Fund site online.

The Online Learning Call Center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, to access online training. The center’s phone number is (844) 695-2223.

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