Fundraising effort to provide 50,000 Detroit students with laptops, free internet

Fundraising effort to provide 50,000 Detroit students with laptops, free internet
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Thanks to a collaborative fundraising effort between Detroit Public Schools Community District and DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, General Motors and the Skillman and Kellogg foundations, over 50,000 students in Detroit schools will have tablet-style laptops by June so that they can easily access online learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The laptops will also come with free internet connections, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Over the last three weeks, the fundraising effort — dubbed the the Connected Futures Initiative — has raised $23 million, all of which will go to paying for the laptops and the internet connections.

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The news outlet noted that wealthier school districts in the area have been able to provide students with electronic devices, but this project is aimed at serving a large swath of pupils. Per U.S. census data, roughly 47 percent of Detroit's students live in poverty.

"I can't say how proud I am of the business community for stepping up to fill this gap," Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the paper. "I've worked in a lot of different cities throughout the country in different positions and spaces and I have never seen this kind of sense of urgency and rapid response, and this amount of investment in this short of time before."

Vitti said that often the only way students in the district can access the internet is through their phones, a method that doesn't lend itself to downloading assignments and other school material. The new laptops will allow them to access all of the necessary materials.

"There's no question that this certainly changes the trajectory of our school-aged children in a city in terms of their ability to learn and advance," DTE CEO Jerry Norcia, who spearheaded the fundraising team, told the Free Press.

The news of the donations comes as children, teachers and parents have turned to home schooling methods and online learning as schools across the country shuttered due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Some public school systems in Massachusetts and other parts of the country recently announced that they will be closed through to the end of the school year. It is unclear which schools, if any, will be allowed to reopen come the start of the school year this fall.