(Jerry Norcia, President, and CEO, DTE Energy)
DTE Energy Foundation, in partnership with DPSCD, the Skillman Foundation and Quicken Loans, has announced a $23 million fund benefiting Detroit students by providing more than 50,000 students with tablets to access the internet and complete online learning.
“Today, the Detroit community commits to our children’s futures. It’s time for us to level the playing field for the students of Detroit,” said DTE Energy President and CEO Jerry Norcia.
“We recognized that we needed to take action urgently to close the digital divide for these students and provide them with the tools necessary to thrive in the 21st century.”
The Michigan Chronicle previously reported Governor Whitmer’s decision to suspend face to face learning for all school districts. Many considered that this action amplified the digital divide that already existed between Detroit students and those who attend suburban school districts.
DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, rolled out a plan that incorporated printing lesson packets but said it was difficult for the district to set up online learning previously.
“Only 10 percent of students were accessing the District’s online platform and learning materials,” said Vitti.
“The District needed an at-scale immediate response and the business and non-profit community stepped up…it will rapidly accelerate our overall plan and efforts to increase the use of technology and improve student achievement.”
Those efforts include SAT prep, weekend learning opportunities, and additional supplemental resources for occurrences such as snow days.
Pastor and Detroit Branch NAACP President Wendell Anthony presented the initial proposal and said he is taken aback at how quickly the vision materialized.
“It is hard to believe that what started off as an idea, a suggestion, even a challenge has now evolved into a reality. This truly is the stuff of which dreams are made.”
Anthony added, “A few weeks ago, this was only a thought in the minds of a few very dedicated people. Now children all around this city, regardless of economic, social or racial status will become more knowledgeable, more prepared, and more confident in their future.”
Not only will students have access to the internet, but their families will too. Parents, guardians, and other relatives can apply for jobs and connect online.
“We can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty not just by improving the education of the children, but by creating opportunities for their parents,” said Mayor Duggan.
The mayor added the city is now considering converting Grow Detroit’s Young Talent summer jobs for youth to online jobs now that they will be equipped with internet access. Before, the city was canceling its youth summer employment service.
“I have to be the luckiest mayor in America. Where most of the country is reeling from a health and economic crisis, the religious, corporate and philanthropic community in Detroit is rallying together to address an inequity that’s plagued our children for many years.”
Internet devices are scheduled to arrive in June at which point DPSCD will deliver to families.
During the six months following the initial deployment of devices, the District plans to partner with the city of Detroit and the social enterprise non-profit Human IT to help families sign up for low-cost subsidized internet services in addition to receiving technical support. The District will continue working with families beyond the six-month mark and will help those that demonstrate a financial need.
The initiative “Connected Futures” is already making plans to expand the program to Detroit students outside of DPSCD too and wants to serve as a model for school districts across the nation.