As part of the National Football League's Inspire Change initiative to reduce barriers to opportunity, the Washington Football Team recently supported local nonprofits that are working to bridge the digital divide in their communities.
In collaboration with elected officials and community advisors, the Washington Football Charitable Foundation awarded two grants -- in the amount of $15,000 apiece -- to two critical organizations in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County, Maryland. The organizations, Horton's Kids and Prince George's County Memorial Library System, have been working to make sure unserved and underserved populations have had proper access to technology and the internet, particularly during the recent pandemic which only placed an ever greater premium on access to this life-changing technology for families.
While computers and the internet have become staples of life across the world, many organizations are working to close the digital divide, trying to narrow the gap between those with access to these tools and those who do not. And in the United States, that is more than 21 million people, according to the Federal Communications Commission*.*
Importantly, these organizations demonstrated specifically how they are addressing the digital divide at the youth level. Horton's Kids, which provides assistance to children in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 8, has been working with caregivers since the COVID-19 pandemic began to ensure that children have the adequate technology to engage in virtual classrooms. The non-profit has also provided several services to children, including access to their own tablet or laptop with Wi-Fi.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with the Washington Football Charitable Foundation," said Horton's Kids Executive Director Erica Ahdoot. "The digital divide is a stark reality for the children and families we serve. Thanks to the Foundation we will be able to provide tutoring, homework help, mobile hotspots, emergency support, and more to children in Southeast D.C."
Prince George's County faces a steep challenge when it comes to the digital divide. More than 116,000 residents lack access to home broadband internet, and providing one laptop and hotspot per household has proven to be insufficient for families that have multiple children in virtual learning environments and parents working from home. Access to the library system's computers, printers, scanners and 3D printers have also been restricted to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Prince George's County Memorial Library System is honored to be collaborating with the Washington Football Team to address digital equity in Prince George's County," said Prince George's County Memorial Library System CEO Roberta Phillips.
With this collaboration and grant support, the library system will add a new service to its suite of services, providing 75 tablets for households with children, immigrants/refugees, senior citizens and job seekers to rent from at least one branch within its five service areas. Customers will be able to borrow the devices for up to six weeks.
"Access to the internet is essential in today's technologically driven world," Phillips said. "Bringing this service into the homes of our community members with computers and Wi-Fi, enables us to create greater digital equity and expanded opportunities."
Horton's Kids will continue to offer support services, which includes tutoring, homework help, literacy interventions and virtual enrichment activities to help children develop their social-emotional skills. They will also provide individualized support to each child with the technology they need.
"With support from the Washington Football Charitable Foundation, we are closing the digital divide for 200 students through holistic, wraparound services and supports," Adhoot said. "From tutoring students struggling in the virtual classroom to providing mobile hotspots so students can get online, Horton's Kids is on the ground ensuring that the most underserved children have access to the essential tools and technology that they need."
Inspiring change begins with a commitment to equity in all forms, and these organizations are demonstrating a determined approach to breaking down barriers in technology access. The Washington Football Team and the National Football League are proud to serve the community through these two far-reaching organizations.