‘Our Families Need Internet Access Now’

‘Our Families Need Internet Access Now’

Britepaths helping schoolchildren connect to online classes.

The ongoing pandemic is causing most students in the local area to attend school virtually this fall. But for families without Internet access, doing so is a huge obstacle. So Britepaths is stepping in to help.

Realizing that children in the families it serves may be unable to connect to distance learning, the Fairfax-based nonprofit is expanding its back-to-school drive to try to ease the digital divide for as many of its clients as possible.

With money already tight for them, these families are barely squeaking by. Their children need to attend classes; but paying for Internet service is one more burden they just can’t bear.

Fairfax County Public Schools is doing what it can to offer WiFi/hotspots to families without Internet. But it anticipates a shortage in these resources. And, making matters worse, in low-income housing units – often built with inexpensive, industrial, cinder-block construction – these devices are consistently unreliable or completely inoperable.

As a result, Britepaths has started a Digital Access Initiative to help families in need obtain the Internet service their children need to attend school online. And the community’s help is urgently sought.

“We are hopeful that the deep, systemic inequalities being revealed this year will hasten the changes we all know need to occur,” explained Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel. “But our families can’t wait years. School starts in September, and our families need Internet access right now.”

So Britepaths is seeking the community’s support so it may offer qualifying families Digital Access Grants of up to $500 per household. The money would be paid directly to their local, service-provider and will cover six months of Internet service to connect students to their distance learning.

“We are grateful to Highlight Technologies for helping us kick off our Digital Access drive with a grant of $5,000,” said Whetzel. Highlight Technologies is an award-winning, woman-owned, small business providing critical services to several federal-government customers.

Now, Britepaths hopes that other entities and individuals will follow suit and contribute whatever they can to this effort. Any amount donated will help make a difference. Donations may be made at https://britepaths.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=5. Or mail checks, payable to Britepaths, to: Britepaths, 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax, VA 22030. Write “BTS” on the memo line.

Grant sponsors are also needed. It would be an opportunity to highlight a company’s or organization’s support, while bringing more public awareness to the real effects of the digital divide in the community. For more information, contact Carolyn Amacher at camacher@britepaths.org or 703-273-8829, ext. 888.