WILMINGTON — The Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative, a statewide group of community-based organizations committed to eliminating systemic racism in Delaware, will work with Comcast to help primarily black and brown children in high-need communities across New Castle County.
Five learning pods in high-need communities will be equipped as WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” where children are attending school virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without internet connectivity, these students, many of whom were not performing at grade level even before the pandemic, would likely fall further into the “academic achievement gap” during the pandemic, when most instruction is happening online, officials said.
In March, Comcast announced a $1 billion commitment over 10 years in continued support of digital equity, including its Lift Zones initiative, which aims to establish WiFi-connected safe spaces in 1,000+ community centers nationwide for students and adults by the end of 2021.
Lift Zones complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which has helped connect a cumulative total of 10 million low-income people to the Internet at home since 2011, including 84,000 Delaware residents.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, students and families were thrown into a digital environment that is unfamiliar to many," United Way of Delaware President and Chief Executive Officer Michelle Taylor said in a prepared statement. "This, combined with a lack of computers, which the DRJC helped remedy by distributing 500 laptops earlier in the school year, and a lack of access to the internet, has only broadened existing disparities in the minority community. Comcast recognized this inequity and is now a key partner in ensuring that these children have the resources they need to learn and thrive remotely.”
She said that, with the help of corporate partnerships, school districts and agency partners, DRJC is "helping keep 27 learning pods active through the end of the 2021 school year."
"And we plan to keep as many open as possible this summer to help children catch up on academic assignments they may have missed during this unusual school year," she continued. "Without internet access, none of this would be possible. We are immensely grateful to Comcast for helping these deserving students.”
The five learning pods now designated as Comcast Lift Zones are:
“The pandemic has put many low-income families at risk of being left behind, and we’re proud to work with community partners to support them with Internet adoption and digital equity programs like this one,” said Jim Samaha, senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region. “We hope these Lift Zones help New Castle County families stay connected to vital resources.”