To address digital inequities faced by students in Minnesota, Partnership for a ConnectedMN, a public-private partnership of private businesses, philanthropic entities and community leaders, today announced that it has awarded $2.1 million in grants to 23 nonprofits serving the connectivity needs of students and their families. ConnectedMN grants will support an estimated 154,000 students and families in urban and rural communities gain access to computing devices, critical support services and the internet.
ConnectedMN was founded by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the administration of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. In June, ConnectedMN announced that their goal was to bring technology and internet access to students most challenged by the sudden shift to online school, including Indigenous and students of color, as well as students from low-income families across urban and rural Minnesota.
The announcement was made at St Anne’s Place, which is part of Having Housing shelters in North Minneapolis. In the spirit of full disclosure, my worlds collided in the best way today when I got to cover broadband expansion and visit with my good friend Monica Nilsson, CEO of Having Housing. I have heard Monica talk about how hard it is for the kids at the shelter to go to school and do homework, especially during COVID. There may have been some camaraderie pre-COVID of everyone trying to work in the corner of the room by the window where you could get a signal – that is if you had a device. But with COVID, the kids are distanced and everyone needs a computer as most schools in Hennepin County are online or hybrid.
COVID is deepening the digital and opportunity gaps; today was a nice example of how we can try to stop that trends. Below Monica details what they are doing with labs, devices to check out and things like noise-cancelling headphones and laptop tables that help kids learn without barrier.
Grants have been awarded to:
- Aeon Housing
- Austin Aspires
- Boys & Girls Club of Leech Lake
- Centro Tyrone Guzman
- CHANGE INC
- East Central MN Education Cable Cooperative
- Haven Housing
- Itasca Area School Collaborative – Deer River ISD-317
- Little Crow Tele-media Network
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation – Duluth
- Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy
- MN Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs
- Neighborhood House
- New Vision Foundation
- Northfield Healthy Community Initiative
- NW Links -Region 1
- PORT Group Home Inc
- Project FINE – Winona Co.
- Project for Pride in Living
- South Central Service Cooperative
- Southwest West Central Services Coop