Austin Aspires program gets $15K grant from AT&T

Published 6:47 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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On Tuesday morning, AT&T, Austin Aspires and Austin Public Schools announced a $15,000 grant from the telecommunications company that will be put toward helping reduce the digital divide in the community.

The grant, part of a larger funding resource from AT&T’s $2 billion commitment to help bridge the divide from 2021-2023, will go specifically toward Austin Aspires’ Aspires Leaders of Tomorrow (A.L.O.T.) program.

The goal of that program uses digital navigators to help students and families get across the digital divide.

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“Our primary work is collective impact,” said Austin Aspires Executive Director Jayne Gibson. “We rally partners to the table to have that discussion.”

This grant comes just a couple weeks after a PC distribution where Austin Aspires worked with partners PC for People to hand out just over 50 PCs to households in need of the machines to fully take advantage of today’s world.

Along the way, the distribution, as well as Thursday’s grant to A.L.O.T., are tools to help the community in three key areas of technology: access to the internet, access to a reliable device and technology literacy.

All of which are important in the post pandemic world when now more than ever it has become clear just how far reaching  technology is in schools and education.

“It’s everything. It’s a way of life,” Gibson said, adding that the digital divide has always been there, but the pandemic simply brought it more out into the light. “One of the things is that through the pandemic many more things shifted.”

From AT&T’s standpoint, AT&T Minnesota’s Ron Mitchell said that the company, like many others, came to realize the importance of closing the gap and was the reason for establishing the $2 billion well of grant funds.

“The pandemic had a big effect on getting youth connected,” Mitchell said, saying that he saw that challenge in his own three sons. “I personally saw how difficult it was for them to get connected.”

While the grant program is for all Americans, Mitchell said the goal is aimed at students in particular and could be a model for more such programs at both AT&T and perhaps other companies.

“This is going to continue,” Mitchell said. “Our investment is big and large, but there’s always work to do. What’s the next step? What do we do next?”

From an education standpoint, there’s really no doubt that both the grant and A.L.O.T. will continue to do good things in the schools.

Superintendent Dr. Joey Page said that there really is no better time for both sides.

“This really is a great opportunity and exciting for us,” Page said. “It aligns perfectly with the launch of our strategic plan this year.”