In response to the challenges of the digital divide and closing of schools due to COVID-19 precautions, Houston Rockets star, Russell Westbrook and his nonprofit organization, the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation has partnered with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office of Education and Comp-U-Dopt to provide children and families with computers needed to access classwork and digital learning resources online.
On March 15, the Texas Education Agency, the governing agency responsible for overseeing primary and public education in Texas, made the decision to close Texas schools amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Later instructions by Governor Abbott extended those closure dates through May 4, 2020. The Texas Education Agency then moved to have school districts conduct school lessons via distance learning or digital platforms. However, many students still lack the resources at-home to access their classwork.
Since March 18th Comp-U-Dopt has distributed nearly 1,000 computers to Houston families through their Computer Drive-Thru which allows families to register for a computer lottery through their website then if selected, drive through the Comp-U-Dopt warehouse where a computer is placed in their car for them to keep, completely free of charge. 83% of computer recipients are living in households earning less than $35,000 annually and most reside in Mayor Turner’s Complete Communities neighborhoods.
“Russell Westbrook proves why he is a champion on and off the court. This donation will be a gamechanger for many students and their families coping with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The generous contribution from the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation will help young people stay focused on their education at home and until they can return to their classroom.”
“The generous gift from the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation will allow us to significantly increase our inventory and ensure we can to continue to close the gap for Houston families most in need,” says Colin Dempsey, Executive Director | Houston & Galveston for Comp-U-Dopt. “1 in 3 economically disadvantaged students in the Houston area lack access to a computer at home. With the outbreak of COVID19, and the closure of schools, there is an immediate need to get more computers to students and families without access at home.”
The need for computers is significant. Since launching the drive-thru, in just 48 hours, more than 25,000 families registered for their computer lottery and more continue to sign up. In Houston, over 250,000 households don’t have access to a device at home, across the country that number jumps to almost 10 million based on census data. Gifts from partners including the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation are now more essential than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shifted the education landscape in our country. As school districts chart a course forward in the face of uncertainty, our teachers are rapidly gearing up to teach virtual lessons and provide learning opportunities to students online, all in an effort to keep students from missing critical learning. All these learning opportunities have one thing in common, they all require a computer.
The supply chain delays due to the shut-down in China paired with the global demand for devices also at an all-time high has created a backlog even in devices available for purchase making solutions like Comp-U-Dopt’s one of the only real viable methods of addressing the gap for low-income populations.
Students without a computer are at risk of losing months of educational opportunity compared to their peers that can participate. While many families are worried about how they will pay rent, feed themselves, and stay safe, those without a computer also risk missing out on important information from schools about meals and enrichment opportunities as well as other opportunities to earn dollars. Comp-U-Dopt is responding to this need not only in Houston but also working to replicate their model in Chicago, DC, Dallas, New Orleans, and San Antonio.
This is a defining moment to consider the future of education and to ensure all students, regardless of their economic situation, have the tools they need to continue to learn.
Comp-U-Dopt is poised to broaden and deepen our impact, and with the support of funders including the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation, corporations, and collaboration with cities, and other community organizations, solving this issue is within reach.
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