Public and government officials gathered Monday afternoon at the Ceres Community Center with Charter cable TV Company to engage in a discussion about digital education and learning resources in Stanislaus County.
It was the company’s way to announce the awarding of two grants locally as well as advertise the Spectrum Internet Assist program to make high-speed broadband more affordable for low-income families and seniors. For $14.99 per month qualifying households (families with children in the free or reduced school lunch program and seniors over 65 on Supplemental Social Security) receive 30/5 Mbps Internet service which includes a modem and security protection. For an additional $5 per month, customers can receive a router.
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra welcomed the small gathering and speakers included Superintendent of Stanislaus County Schools-elect Scott Kuykendall, state Assemblyman Adam Gray and state Senator-elect Anna Caballero.
Caballero recently left the state Assembly where she chaired the Assembly Committee on Agriculture as well as the Committee on Economic Development & Investment in Rural California. She said there is a real need for internet access in parts of the Valley.
“For me it’s a fundamental issue how we can ensure that everybody’s connected and has the opportunity to have affordable broadband service.”State Senator Anna Caballero
“There are these gaps in services all over the community and for many of our students that is critically important,” said Caballero, “because if they have required assignments for which they have to get on the internet or they have to communicate with their professors or teachers electronically once they go home if they don’t have internet service then they’re cut off completely.”
She also commented that internet access is critical in the agriculture.
“For me it’s a fundamental issue how we can ensure that everybody’s connected and has the opportunity to have affordable broadband service.”
Assemblyman Gray said “to have Charter here as a partner with this community here in the Central Valley helping us ensure success for that next generation, continued striving of our beautiful, wonderful Valley, is just really appreciated.”
Kuykendall said vast changes have occurred in California which has included the adoption of new curriculum standards and an influx of technology. He said a number of districts like Ceres and Hughson unified school districts have issued Chromebooks to students. He also noted that the Stanislaus County Office of Education also has an online curriculum for all school districts.
“Five years ago we started a high school diploma program for adults called ‘Comeback Kids,’” said Kuykendall. “We now have over 800 adults enrolled, which is fantastic and we’re really proud of the program. But again, it’s all online and the students in this program, if they can’t find access, they can’t be successful in this program.
“The bottom line is with Charter being here and Spectrum Internet Assist I’m happy they are … making it easier for our students and our families in this area to have that internet access so that we as educators can be more effective with more students on our campuses than ever before.”
Each year Spectrum provides grants to community organizations that exemplify a commitment to serving and providing a positive impact to communities Charter serves. A $2,000 check was delivered to the Stanislaus County Employee Mentor Program, established in 1999 by the county Chief Executive Office and aimed to address the county’s high dropout rate of 23.6 percent, one of the highest for the state. This is the second year that Stanislaus County Mentoring Program has received a Spectrum grant.
According to Keith Boggs, a county’s Assistant Chief Executive Officer, approximately 188 county employees volunteer their lunch hour twice a week to mentor 95 children at local elementary schools such as assisting them with math, homework and reading as well as inspiring them to develop their abilities and challenge their goals.
A $10,000 grant was awarded to LearningQuest: Stanislaus Literacy Centers. The mission of the center is to empower adults through free educational services and help them learn how to read and write, do math, live life, and technology and work skills. Karen Williams, the executive director of LearningQuest, said her center is important because one out of seven adults in Stanislaus County have no high school diploma when the numbers across the country are one in 16. She shared that 30 percent of Stanislaus County graduates never graduated from high school and that nearly half read below a seventh-grade level. While 95 percent of all jobs – McDonald’s included – require a diploma, one in four adults locally do not have one.
The Spectrum Digital Education Grant is a philanthropic initiative designed to support nonprofit organizations that educate community members on the benefits of broadband and how to use it to improve their lives.
Those who want to see if they qualify for the low-cost Spectrum Internet Assist program can visit at www.spectruminternetassist.com/SHA