Three seniors from Mountain Ridge High School, 22800 N. 67th Ave., Glendale, have organized a fundraiser, Break Digital Divide, to support Alhambra Elementary School District with remote learning.
Neha Balamurugan, Anthony Ruan and Lauren Aoyama were instrumental in the GoFundMe-based project that is collecting money to support remote learning by providing effective and reliable WiFi for Alhambra families in need.
The Alhambra Elementary School District provides education for more than 14,000 students at 15 schools in the Glendale and Phoenix areas.
In March of this year, Arizona schools relocated to an online platform. In early April, the college board announced online AP tests. While teachers and students found adjusting to these accommodations difficult, Neha identified a more exigent issue.
“It was the most dreadful thing. My gut literally dropped, and I was terrified,” Neha explained.
“My AP Chemistry test glitched while turning in. At that moment, it really was a flash -- I thought about the thousands of people that couldn’t take tests like this that they have worked so hard for, or even attend school due to connectivity issues. And that is exactly what Digital Divide is. I understand that technology is expensive, but I don’t understand it being a barrier to someone’s learning. This is how the Break Digital Divide project sparked. However, without Tony, Lauren, Ms. Hauer, Mr. Montoya and Mrs. Moore it would simply have been a spark.”
The urgency of this cause, as Neha explained, is clearly significant.” As a result, the team moved quickly to establish connections and find the hot spot of need.
In contacting Alhambra Elementary School District through a connection, they identified the hot spot they were looking for.
“My mother has a connection at Alhambra so we knew about the need to help these families,” Lauren said.
In Alhambra Elementary School District, where 92 percent of students qualify for free/reduced lunch and where 37.7 percent of residents fall below the poverty level, the impact of these funds would be hefty, decided the students. Wasting no time after approval, the students launched the fundraiser on Aug. 7 and have raised $1,800 in a week.
Their goal is to raise $20,000 by early October.
“It is an ambitious goal for a good reason so I hope we can hit the goal,” Anthony said. “We are looking at some social events online to help. We have a $100 prize package for a random drawing when people donate so help to get more people contributing.”
Residents can donate at tinyurl.com/digital-divide. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
“Giving is not just about making a donation,” CEO and president of the UN Foundation Kathy Calvin said. “It is about making a difference.”
Editor’s note: Pranavi Vuppala is a student intern for the Ridge Review, a Mountain Ridge High School publication.