Students falling behind as wait for technology continues

Tom Abrahams Image
Monday, October 26, 2020
Join ABC13 and help put much needed technology in the hands of Houston's most underserved students.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's a small start. Just five Chromebooks delivered to help children whose families fight homelessness or who are in foster care. Our first stop was to meet Carla Alvarez, a mother of four who lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic and was on the verge of eviction.

"Helpless," said Alvarez of her situation. "There's no other word because there is absolutely nothing I can do. I can't afford technology right now. I can barely afford to keep my roof over my head."

RELATED: Join ABC13's laptop drive and help underserved students succeed

She was on waiting lists for her elementary-age children to receive technology. They are behind, for the most part not in class since March. She's contacted her children's school once a week. They told her to keep calling.

"Not knowing what's going to happen or when it's going to come in is not a good feeling, because they are missing out big time," Alvarez said.

Something as simple as two Chromebooks can be life changing. She sent us a photograph of her two children, Aiden and Meniah Mejia, holding their new Chromebooks. They beamed with huge grins, and Carla Alvarez is not alone.

There are countless families struggling to make ends meet, let alone buy computers or tablets of their own.

In many cases, schools didn't have the resources to give tech to everyone at the start of the school year, and for those students that did receive loaner devices, parents reported to Eyewitness News that they were slow or didn't work with current software.

One of those children now has a Chromebook of his or her own. We gave one to a case worker who is helping a foster child who is months behind academically. Another two Chromebooks went to a family of three living in a hotel for nine months.

"I feel really good to have a new computer. I never had one before," the older child told us. They didn't want to share their identities for safety reasons, but now two children, one of whom is a student with special needs, can go to class.

"It's been tough to go to class," their mother said. "With the internet that (the district) gave us, it's not working. So we've been using the internet here sometimes and it glitches sometimes or it just doesn't work. The iPads they gave us the first time, they didn't work."

Five Chromebooks is a start. But it is a single plank in the chasm that is the digital divide. To expand that bridge, ABC13 is partnering with DePelchin Children's Center. They have seen the problem first hand in countless families they counsel, coach and support through their parent-centered services.

"Some children in our program are having to use their parent's cell phone to do school each day. They don't have laptops or tablets," said Megan Green with DePelchin. "They're not able to connect with their peers and their teacher, and there is really a divide there because they are falling behind academically."

And this is where you come in. With your help we are raising funds to give devices to vetted families in need.

We know these are challenging times for everyone, everywhere. But Houston steps up when others have need. We always have and with your help, we always will.