LEOMINSTER – T-Mobile recently donated six wireless hotspots to the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster (BGCFL) as part of the company’s Project 10Million initiative.

“Millions of school-age kids in America do not have access to reliable internet and cannot complete critical after-school assignments,” said John Stevens, Vice President of Small Town Rural at T-Mobile. “Perhaps now more than ever as students in Massachusetts and across the country navigate through remote learning, this type of homework gap can impact their test scores and grades and limit their opportunities after graduation. It’s T-Mobile’s mission to help provide these students with access to reliable internet connectivity as well access to future opportunity.”

The 200 students who attend the three supervised BGCFL remote learning and enrichment program sites located at BGCFL, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg, and Gardner Middle School are benefiting from the internet connectivity the hotspots provide.


The hotspots help a 10-year-old student participate in a live NASA Q & A session featuring two female astronauts on the International Space Station who answered questions from students on subjects including food, exercise, and research.

 

“We wanted to make sure that if we were involved with remote learning, connectivity would not be problematic and that the youth would not experience sluggish connection,” said BGCFL Executive Director Donata Martin. “We wanted to provide uninterrupted virtual participation with their teachers. We knew our building would have issues and depending on the number of children and staff using the Wi-Fi, and we did.”

Martin said that BGCFL participated in a grant funded program in 2016 through Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) with T-Mobile and Cisco that provided them with hot spots.

“Our equipment from 2016 helped but we knew as more children attended, we would need more and stronger equipment,” she said.

Martin said that when she approached T-Mobile, a BGCA partner, about their need, the company was happy to step up and help.

“The team understood the needs of our three supervised remote learning sites,” Martin said. “They understood that each site and after-school program is unique and worked with us on a solution to help all of our students stay connected and engaged. I was elated when they granted my request by donating six hot spots as a part of Project 10Million.”

Martin said the hots spots are being used inside at the remote learning and enrichment sites and also during BGCFL’s after-school program.

 
Students participate in remote learning at the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster site.

 

“We will use them outside for environmental and art programming as well,” she said. “We have noticed a difference. Our Leominster site was operating with 60 children, and we just added a teen supervised remote program in our teen center in the same building. We noticed right away that we needed to use a hot spot for the additional equipment being used.”

According to a BGCFL press release about the donation, even before the pandemic more than nine million of America’s 56 million school-age children did not have access to reliable internet and could not complete after-school assignments.

“This critical homework gap has tremendous short- and long-term impacts: lower test scores, lower grades and limited opportunities after graduation,” stated the press release. “Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented 50 million students across the country are learning remotely. As our schools continue distance learning and after school programs provide remote activities, the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster with clubhouses in Leominster and Gardner, and T-Mobile, are responding to the unique learning challenges students are experiencing.

“What was once a homework gap — when students faced challenges completing assignments when they left campus at the end of the day — has turned into an even more massive schoolwork gap — when students without Internet access are potentially unable to participate in the virtual classroom.”

A teenage student focuses on remote learning at the Gardner Middle School site.

 

According to T-Mobile, in 2020 the company provided hundreds of thousands of households with free data and free hotspots for five years through Project 10Million. In total, since the start of the pandemic, T-Mobile has helped to connect more than 2.5 million students across the country including Project 10Million participants.