A photo of two little girls on the sidewalk using Taco Bell wifi for school in Salinas went viral for putting a spotlight on the digital divide in education during the pandemic. The image was posted by @ms_mamie89 who wrote in the caption, “What can we do as a community to pull together for students who need something as simple as Wi-Fi in order to succeed? Please share and tag people in our community who can help.” The post now has nearly 70k likes and inspired a GoFundMe that has received more than $141k in donations.
Organizer Jackie Lopez shared that she was so moved by their story that she set out to find the family and was eventually able to locate them. According to the GoFundMe page, Juana is a single mom with three daughters who works in the fields picking berries. When she’s not working in the fields she’s selling flowers on the side of the road or selling ice cream. She discovered they were living in a bedroom inside of a home and were being evicted Sept. 1 so with the help of donations and advocate Flor Martinez @flowerinspanish they were able to book a week-long stay in a hotel room for them.
Salinas is in Monterey County, California where about 78 percent of residents are Latino and the girls attend Salinas City Elementary School District. The district has a little less than 8,500 students and school officials have distributed 8,245 Chromebooks and 1,500 hotspots and they’re currently waiting for 2,500 additional hotspots to be delivered, according to KION News. They confirmed that that the family has now received hotspots.
This is indicative of a nationwide digital divide in education during the pandemic. 43 percent of all parents with lower incomes say it is very likely or somewhat likely their children will have to do schoolwork on a cell phone. Forty percent report the same likelihood of their child having to use public wifi to finish schoolwork because there is not a reliable internet connection at home, and 36 percent say it is at least somewhat likely their children will not be able to complete schoolwork because they do not have access to a computer at home.
“California is the technology capital of the world, this is an embarrassment,” Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo told CNN. “Salinas Valley is 45 minutes from Silicon Valley and here we have such a huge divide that’s gone on for years but now it’s only amplified because of this pandemic.” He added, “Technology is so critical and we cannot view it as a luxury, it’s a necessity of life, it should be seen as a utility like water, electricity, and gas.
Flor Martinez (@flowerinspanish) posted a response to questions about where the donations were going saying, “The GoFundMe is under Jackie’s name and she has already set it up with an accountant. The mother went to the district herself to check in and she is getting the resources she need[s] to find a permanent home.”
Jackie also posted on Instagram stories confirming 100 percent of the funds are going to the family.