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Dear Parents, Grandparents and Caring Adults:

I was born in the Penrose neighborhood in North St. Louis and  I attended Catholic schools. When I turned ten my family moved to the suburbs and I graduated from Webster Groves High School. I raised my children in University City schools and I have grandchildren who live in Ballwin and attend Parkway schools. My family has lived on both sides of the "Delmar Divide", the line that separates this city by race. St. Louis is divided along many lines and race plays a role in many of our divisions and exclusions. 

Digital exclusion is the new form of student segregation in the 21st century.  Digital segregation is reinforcing the old Delmar Divide in St. Louis. If you make a transparent map of racial segregation and lay it over other maps—political power, cultural influence, health, wealth, education, and employment—the pattern repeats. The digital divide in St. Louis mirrors the Delmar Divide. It is also our future unless we stop it today.

Learning@Home is our digital inclusion program targeted at struggling St. Louis communities. This partnership engages with the schools and the families of 8,800 at-risk students grades 7-12 located in the high-poverty communities of North St. Louis City and County - St. Louis, Ferguson-Florissant, Jennings, Normandy, Riverview Gardens and University City.

Project Appleseed can eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected parents and students. We aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all. Through partnerships with Internet service providers, EveryoneOn reduces Project Appleseed’s program cost by offering $10 per month unlimited mobile broadband and digital devices including $125 tablets and $160 laptops with free software. 

 

Our Learning@Home eliminates the digital divide by offering parents – Digital Scholarships - $10 per month unlimited mobile broadband and digital devices including $70.00 desktops and $150 laptops bundled with free software.  Scholarship parents are required to attend two parent/ teacher conferences and give volunteer time - a minimum of 10 hours in their student’s schools each year.

Digitally Redlining the Poor

For all the talk about St. Louis being a technology hub, according to recent Census data, St. Louis has the 7th worst percentage of residents connected to the Internet in the nation. Many struggling families have been digitally redlined. They can't promote learning at home because 50% of students in the City of St. Louis and 40% in North County lack a connection to the Internet.  

 

These struggling St. Louis families are trying to survive in a state and region that pays lip service to parent and family engagement in schools. These families are trying to patch their broken dreams together so that they might have some sort of normal life for their children and their families. They are not lazy, they are busy – busy trying to survive without the Internet among other things. Can your family survive without the Internet?

These families can’t learn at home, teachers can't reach these families, and applying for jobs online is impossible. Project Appleseed has an aggressive plan to bridge the divide. Our goal is to permanently close the digital divide by leaving no St. Louis family behind. Research repeatedly correlates family engagement with student achievement, yet this strategy is rarely activated as an integral part of school reform efforts. 

 

Equal Access to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

We believe all students and their families are entitled to opportunities to succeed, regardless of any demographic, disability, geographic, or economic factors. Project Appleseed aims to provide access to internet enabled devices, collaborative and inclusive digital content, digital literacy training, and quality technical support for struggling families to be better able to use the Internet for education, information, employment, well-being and social connections

 

St. Louis Digital Inclusion Summit

Our plan to engage parents and connect them to the larger community has been developed with the help of Project Appleseed’s partners at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work with assistance from the Gephardt Institute. Washington University graduate students have surveyed city and county leaders to determine who are the key stakeholders in St. Louis’ digital inclusion community.

 

Project Appleseed will work to bring together the St. Louis Digital Inclusion Summit. Community and major thought leaders on the opportunities and challenges of digital inclusion will meet to explore issues to improve connectivity and public access in our community. The St. Louis Digital Inclusion Summit will be an open, collaborative group of St. Louis area schools, parent groups, nonprofits, individuals, government entities and business focused on fostering Internet access and digital readiness.

 

Help a family and fund a Digital Scholarship with a contribution of $100 or more. You can connect them to the larger St. Louis community with your support. Connect a struggling family to their schools, jobs, resources and the larger St. Louis region. All communities in St. Louis need involved parents, responsive schools, access to jobs, connections to churches and economic opportunity. Together we can make it happen one family at a time.

 

With thanks,

 

Many parents have trouble finding the time or energy for this kind of volunteering. Some 43% of K-12 parents volunteered at school in 2016, down from 46% in 2006, according to federal data analyzed by Kevin Walker, president of Project Appleseed, a St. Louis nonprofit advocating parental involvement.

Project Appleseed has helped thousands of students, parents, and educators across the country. What do they do and why are they so successful?

Kevin Walker is the president and founder of Project Appleseed, a national organization that campaigns to improve public schools. Walker is based in St. Louis, where he’s spearheading an effort to “close the homework gap” between wealthy and poor communities in the region.  A repeal of net neutrality could harm that work, Walker said. Project Appleseed has already found that a significant portion of families in poorer neighborhoods don’t have internet. If net neutrality is passed, Walker worries that costs would go up, which could “serve as an additional obstacles to their access.”

SHORTLY BEFORE AM on February 23, 2016, an incendiary email landed on a nonprofit listserv, blasting a federal program that many of the listserv’s members rely on to bring high-speed internet to low-income and rural Americans. The message, from Zach Leverenz, founder of the nonprofit EveryoneOn, attacked the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). Kevin Walker says it was “his Jerry Maguire memo” about broadband spectrum worth $75 billion.

Guest Kevin Walker, founder and president of Project Appleseed, a nonprofit that fosters family engagement with schools, often with the help of technology, talks about a solution for the digital divide among students with and without internet access at home. Kevin addresses the reality of the digital divide, why this solution hasn’t been fully utilized, and what can be done about it. Learn more about the work of Project Appleseed at projectappleseed.org.

Appleseed WIRED in magazine: According to the FCC, 5% of broadband internet spectrum is set aside to help close the digital divide. “Five percent is nothing. It should be at least 50 percent,” said Kevin Walker, founder and president of Project Appleseed, a nonprofit that fosters family engagement with schools, often with the help of technology.

In Missouri, Internet access for all is still out of reach. By some estimates, 44 percent of families in the poorest parts of Missouri lack Internet access. And the Federal Communications Commission reports that 529,000 Missouri households lack Internet access, while another 23,000 still use dial-up subscription service.

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P.S. To get detailed information on our plan for digital inclusion in St. Louis click here and we will get you a copy of our plan and our accomplishments. I welcome your thoughts.