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Thousands Of San Antonio High School Students Gifted Home Internet Connections

Lanier High School students pick up free internet hotspots Dec. 6, 2019.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Lanier High School students pick up free internet hotspots Dec. 6, 2019.

More than 5,200 high school students in the San Antonio Independent School District will take home free hotspot devices and cell phones over the next few weeks.

Sprint’s1Million Project is donating the devices to every SAISD high school student who said they had trouble connecting to the internet at home — a barrier reported by 40% of the district’s high school students.

Depending on need, students will be given either a smartphone or a hotspot. Each device comes with 10 gigs of data a month for as long as the student is enrolled at SAISD.

Around 40 Lanier High School students were among the first to receive their devices Friday.

Lanier Senior Jasmine Vazquez said her hotspot will make it a lot easier to finish homework and apply for college scholarships.

“That way I’m able to work whenever there’s no internet at home. Sometimes it goes and it just doesn’t function as well,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said she has a computer and a cell phone, but the internet connection at her home is unreliable, making it difficult to access her notes and assignments from English and math class, which use Google Classroom.

Her principal, Moises Ortiz, said bridging the digital divide for Vazquez and her classmates will enable them to better compete with the rest of the world.

“Out of 1,500 kids at Lanier, over 1,100 of us have said we don’t have reliable connectivity at home. That stifles us. That prevents us from extending that learning that we can (provide) for you,” Ortiz told the students before the devices were distributed. “Now the sky’s the limit. The world’s the limit.”

While a cell phone isn’t ideal for writing research papers or completing complicated homework, Superintendent Pedro Martinez said access to the internet is an important part of the equation, and something many people take for granted.

“A cell phone is now a necessity. A data plan is now a necessity. It’s not something that’s a luxury anymore,” Martinez told the Lanier students. “We want to make sure that you’re prepared for what you need not only here in high school but as you think about college.”

Martinez said the district has delivered all of the devices to the schools, and the schools will distribute them to students over the next few weeks as parents return permission information.

The donation is only for current high school students, but Martinez said SAISD will be applying to be a part of the project again in hopes of benefiting incoming freshman in the years to come.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.