Grant Aims to Provide Valley Students Mobile Devices

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DONNA – A grant aims to give one million students a level playing field when it comes to education.

Donna ISD is one of three districts in the Rio Grande Valley handing out free cell phones with hotspots to low-income students who don’t have access to the internet at home.

For Donna High School English and language arts teacher Erika Guerrero, the internet is a key part of education. She said students use the internet for coursework.

“They are using the internet. They need a device, a computer, a tablet, any device so they are connected and conducting research,” Guerrero said.

Donna ISD knew many of its low-income students were not completing assignments at home because they did not have internet access. A grant from Sprint Wireless provided 600 students this year with a mobile phone and hotspot with free service to complete homework wherever they are.

“It doesn't matter if they are low-income, they are still having access to this device, it brings in an equality factor so they are not at a disadvantage,” Guerrero said.

High school freshman Elizabeth Avila and Luis Gonzalez jumped at the chance to relieve their parents of trips to the library after school and on weekends.

“Before having this device, I sometimes wouldn't finish my homework or I would turn it in late and it would affect me in my grades. But with this device now, I can turn them in in time,” Avila said.

The grant, worth about $3 million and costs the district nothing, will serve more than 1,600 Donna students over five years.

“It's helped me learn more if I don't get what the teacher is teaching,” said Luis Gonzalez. “Thank you, because now I have a better chance of passing."

It's a chance Donna ISD believes will open doors to a better future.

Two other school districts in the Valley, Harlingen CISD and McAllen ISD, will also participate in the program. 

Sprint is dubbing it the 1Million Project. They hope to give one million students internet access so that they can find more academic success.

“All told, we are distributing devices with service to nearly 5,800 students throughout Texas in the first full year of the 1Million Project,” said Sprint spokesperson John Votava by e-mail.

School and school districts interested in applying for next year can visit the program's webpage.


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