Every middle school student in McDowell County, W.Va., is receiving a free laptop, thanks to the contributions and efforts of the Reconnecting McDowell partnership, along with West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Connect2Compete.
The first distribution took place March 17 at Mount View Middle/High School. Other laptop distribution events took place at Sandy River Middle School and at Southside K-8 School.
"Laptops have become an important tool for homework," says Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell. "Once a student in rural McDowell logs on to the World Wide Web, the same world opens up to them as it does for everyone else."
"We have the ability to personalize learning, build confidence, and improve student performance through the effective use of new technologies in the classroom," Gov. Tomblin says. "Through this partnership, students at Mount View, Sandy River and Southside middle schools will now have access to laptops for homework, research and other school projects."
Earl F. Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, says his organization is pleased to support the work of Reconnecting McDowell with laptops. "This is just one of many projects Reconnecting McDowell has spearheaded, and the laptops we are distributing will help the middle-school students of McDowell County build the skills they need to become the successful workforce of tomorrow."
The $284,188 grant to McDowell County Schools comes from several sources. At Reconnecting McDowell's request, Tomblin allocated $138,594 from the state's share of Appalachian Regional Commission funds; Connect2Compete matched it with $127,914 in discounts; and McDowell County Schools added $17,680 in an in-kind contribution for processing and training.
Shentel invested $10 million to provide Internet access to 10,000 McDowell households and is offering reduced rates for households with school-age children. A Shentel representative explained to families at the meetings how to connect to the Internet at home.
Reconnecting McDowell, launched by the American Federation of Teachers in December 2011, now has about 125 partners from business, government, labor, non-profit organizations, foundations, universities and the community, working on the intersecting problems of underperforming schools, chronic poverty, very limited healthcare and social services, acute housing shortages, a declining economy and high unemployment.