Spotlight: Program Gives Free Internet Access to Youth Nationwide

Spotlight: Program Gives Free Internet Access to Youth Nationwide

One area of concern in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is that students from underrepresented groups do not pursue degrees in these fields with the same frequency as other groups. This has led to a STEM workforce that does not reflect America’s diversity. 

In other words, the pipeline to STEM careers needs repair. Many organizations are working to patch the STEM pipeline in order to ensure more diverse STEM workplaces. One organization, the 1Million Project Foundation, is focusing in particular on students without the financial means to access high-tech resources. Read on to learn more.

History

The 1Milllion Project Foundation

The creation of the 1Million Project Foundation was announced in 2016 by Marcelo Claure, Executive Chairman of Sprint Corporation. In 2015, he had learned that more than 5 million children in the United States could not complete their homework because they lacked Internet access at home. Inspired to make a change, he launched the 1Million Project Foundation because he believes that every student deserves access to the Internet and the accompanying electronic devices they need to succeed. His hope is to provide 1 million high school students with home Wi-Fi access and a mobile device with which to access the Internet.

Mission

According to the 1Million Project Foundation, 70% of U.S. high school teachers assign online homework. Without reliable, high-speed Internet and a device to access it, many students are unable to complete these assignments at home. The 1Million Project Foundation recognizes that while their more financially secure classmates are able to do their homework in the comfort of their homes, less advantaged students must seek free Wi-Fi at fast food restaurants and coffee shops, endure long lines at public libraries, or arrive hours early or stay hours late at school to finish their online homework assignments. These barriers are unacceptable. It is the mission of the 1Million Project Foundation to change this situation by providing economically disadvantaged students with the technology they need to succeed in school.

Sponsors

As Executive Chairman at Sprint, Claure was able to recruit the corporation as the founding organization and lead supporter of the 1Million Project Foundation. Other corporate sponsors that serve as device supporters are Alcatel, American Network Solutions, Coolpad, Franklin Wireless, Kyocera, LG, and Motorola. Supplier supporters include J.P. Morgan, Morrison Foerster, Nokia, and QuadGen. Organizing supporters are EveryoneOn and MBK Alliance.

In addition to these sponsors, the 1Million Project Foundation benefits from collaboration with the State Educational Technology Directors Association. Further, 18 representatives from school districts around the country act as the district advisory council for the 1Million Project Foundation. Many of these representatives serve as information technology leaders in their school districts and are able to provide insights into the practicalities of implementing technology-related initiatives in public schools.

Participating Schools

In the first year of the program, 120 school districts in 31 states, including the District of Columbia, participated. In the second year, an additional 65 school districts participated, some in states already represented the first year and some in newly participating states. This brought the total number of participating school districts to 182 and the total number of states represented to 34. The 17 states not yet represented by participating school districts are Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The program is currently accepting applications for its third year, though, so perhaps these unrepresented states will join the list with a participating school district in the 2019-2020 school year.

child learning

Benefits

According to the 1Million Project Foundation, the benefits of the program are many. Its statistics show that 91% of participating school administrators reported improvements in student attitudes toward learning, 78% reported improved student attendance, and 90% reported improved homework completion rates. Additionally, the 1Million Project Foundation is collaborating with the College Board to encourage participating students to use their free Internet access and mobile devices to study for the SAT. The program provides free access to SAT test preparation materials from Khan Academy and extra high-speed data access for students who participate in practice SAT tests for the recommended number of hours.

All participating students can receive a tablet, hotspot, and/or smartphone, depending on their particular needs. Some school districts allow participating students to keep their free device after they graduate from high school. Using the device they receive, students are able to access 3GB of high-speed LTE Internet for free every month. Once this allotment is used, students can obtain unlimited 2G mobile Internet for free. Students who receive a smartphone can use it as a hotspot and for unlimited domestic calls and texts as well. No matter which device they receive, all students can access free Sprint wireless service for up to four years, depending on the grade they are in when they join the program. Roaming is not available.