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Greenwich Students Thankful for Home Net Program

GREENWICH, Conn. – Five Greenwich High School students are giving thanks for home computers and Internet access after being nominated for a pilot program aimed at leveling the technological playing field for all students.

“I didn’t expect to get it, and I was surprised that people actually recognized me,” said Andres Ortega, who says he plans to use the computer and Internet to help him research quantum physics, a field he hopes to study in college. “I got into it when I started reading one book at the library, and I just got hooked on it. It’s going to be a lot easier to get information now on quantum physics.”

Although the majority of students in Greenwich have home computers or personal laptops as well as access to the Internet, a small number goes without this basic tool. The Verizon Foundation awarded the Greenwich Alliance for Education with a grant of $5,000 to support the program, Bridging the Digital Divide in Greenwich. The grant was part of the alliance’s Reaching Out Grants program, which gives out money to local partners for innovative programs for students.

The five “digitally excluded” students and their families will be provided with 12 months of access to online learning resources and tools, including hardware, DSL connectivity and training. The students were nominated by Greenwich community organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club.

Izaiah Perez, a tech-savvy freshman who was chosen, is thinking about volunteering as a teen technology support volunteer at Greenwich Library.

“These students were nominated based on academic commitment and belief by the school that they might benefit,” said Jennifer Lau, project leader for Bridging the Digital Divide. When the school was granted the money, Lau was away in California for one year due to a family obligation, but the school waited. “I had to take a leave, but I was moved that they were so willing to hold the money and wait for me to return. I believe very passionately in this program, and I’m just so proud.”

The program seeks to determine the disconnected population at the school, estimated to be at least 2 percent — or about 60 students — and will gauge the impact of an in-home computer with Internet access on student learning. If successful, this pilot will provide the evidence necessary to expand the program, thereby continuing to close the digital divide.

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