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Rhode Island Foundation Challenge Raises More Than $400,000 to Provide Computers and Wi-Fi Hotspots for Students in Need

CVS Health and Brown University among the largest donors to meet the challenge

Providence, RI – Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green today announced that a challenge issued by Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg has brought in more than $400,000 to provide computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to school communities with students and families in need.

The challenge attracted contributions from nearly 70 donors, with donations ranging from $25 to six-figure contributions from CVS Health and Brown University.

“The generosity of Rhode Islanders continues to amaze me. I am incredibly thankful for our community stepping up to help our students learn during this extraordinary time,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “Rhode Island is a national model for Distance Learning, and it is because Rhode Islanders have risen to the challenge to do whatever it takes to keep our students safe and learning.”

The technology supports RIDE’s move to Distance Learning on March 23, announced by Governor Gina M. Raimondo in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Ever since this crisis began, Rhode Islanders have been stepping up to support our community,” said Governor Raimondo. “I’m incredibly grateful to CVS Health, Brown University, and every single person who has risen to the Rhode Island Foundation’s challenge for showing what Rhode Islanders can accomplish when we come together.”

Steinberg issued the challenge to the community on April 13, while announcing the Foundation would make a $100,000 donation to support RIDE’s Distance Learning initiative.

“Seeing Rhode Islanders come together to generously support our students and our teachers is inspiring. By focusing on the tools that make Distance Learning possible for every student, we are making equitable learning opportunities possible during this public health crisis,” said Steinberg.

RIDE estimates that the more than $400,000 raised will fund the purchase of approximately 400 hotspots and 1,200 computers to close technology gaps for disadvantaged students and families.

At $150,000, CVS Health made the largest donation. The funding will enable the Woonsocket Education Department to purchase 750 Chromebook laptops for students in grades three through five. The assistance will round out the effort to ensure that every Pre-K through grade 12 student in the district has access to technology for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recent stay-at-home orders and school closures have put many families in an extremely difficult position,” said Lisa Bisaccia, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at CVS Health. “We hope that providing access to technology helps ease the burden on local families in our hometown of Woonsocket, who are struggling to juggle the demands of work, school, and childcare, while maintaining their own health and well-being.”

The $100,000 donation from Brown University’s Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence is earmarked to support internet access for Providence students through the Cox Connect 2 Compete Program and the purchase of hotspots. The initiative is expected to provide access for 900 student households for the next year and serves a direct need identified by the Providence Public School District.

“We know that Providence’s teachers are innovating and students are dedicated to learning remotely, but all of those efforts will only be successful with a reliable, accessible connection to the web for families across the city,” said Brown President Christina H. Paxson. “Every student deserves a strong finish to this unprecedented school year, and our support for this initiative is aimed at eliminating one major challenge to remote education, including, and especially for, families contending with the impacts of the pandemic most acutely.”

Statewide, the majority of students are able to access Distance Learning opportunities using technology provided by local education agencies. However, RIDE has identified pockets of need in some school communities, including families with multiple students or households without access to internet connectivity. The donations will be distributed to those school communities or used directly to purchase Chromebooks and hotspots.

“We are so grateful that we can meet the needs of our students, but we know that we will continue to see the need for more technology as devices wear down,” said Infante-Green. “I encourage the Rhode Island community to keep our students in mind, and rest assured that any amount of a donation will go directly to their education.”

All of the contributions were made to the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education at the Foundation, which was created to support initiatives that benefit the public education of Pre-K through grade 12 students in Rhode Island, including technology for virtual learning. The Fund will continue to accept charitable contributions in any amount at rifoundation.org/RIEducation as long as the need continues.