‘Heartbreaking’ photo drives Wells Fargo, Kings Care Foundation to ‘Team Up for Tech’
Collaboration between National Hockey League franchise, two Los Angeles-area nonprofits, and Wells Fargo provided computers and broadband for students to attend school virtually in under-resourced communities.
A year ago, two young girls sat outside a fast-food restaurant in Salinas, California, laptops in hand.
Approached by restaurant employees, the girls explained they were using the restaurant’s Wi-Fi to attend school virtually. A woman nearby captured the photo and uploaded it to Instagram. As it went viral, the photo highlighted an already growing disparity exacerbated by COVID-19 — the digital divide.
While many students seamlessly transitioned to remote learning, the change emphasized how many families lack the resources needed to adequately support distance learning.
A 2020 study from Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PDF) in collaboration with researchers from the University of Southern California showed that more than 25% of families in the Los Angeles area had insufficient or no broadband internet service in their homes. Additionally, many families, according to the study, lacked adequate tools like smartphones, tablets, and/or computers.
“It's important that we are working with communities and not on behalf of communities.” — Partnership for L.A. Schools Chief External Officer Ryan Smith
The photo soon reached Kings Care Foundation — the philanthropic arm of the National Hockey League’s LA Kings — specifically, Jennifer Pope, senior vice president, Community Relations, Team Services & Hockey Development.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said.
With more than $50,000 raised initially, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools distributed 85 Chromebook computers to students at one of its 19 schools in Los Angeles, Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School, and SoLa I CAN Foundation supplied 20 low-income Black and Latinx families with internet and devices. Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and SoLa I CAN Foundation have nearly two decades of combined experience helping students in Los Angeles.
“It’s important that we are working with communities and not on behalf of communities,” said Partnership for Los Angeles Schools Chief External Officer Ryan Smith. “Support from Wells Fargo and the Kings Cares Foundation allow our schools who are closest to the issues to support those on the front lines.”
“At Wells Fargo, we have a long legacy of serving those who need it most. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many children to pivot to remote learning, and not all students have consistent access to the proper technology to keep their education going,” said Kent Caldwell-Meeks, who is head of the Midwest Division for Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management and sits on the board of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. “Our collaboration with AEG (owners of the Kings) and the LA Kings allows us to give back to the communities we serve by helping students across Los Angeles maintain their studies and stay connected with their teachers and fellow students during these unprecedented times.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest in the country — returned to in-person learning in August. With the rise of the highly contagious delta variant, school systems are once again making remote learning contingencies in case of worsening conditions.
If a return to full-time remote learning occurs, more than 100 students will have access to the technology they need.
“The great thing about our work together is that it’s about justice for under-resourced communities,” Smith said. “And Wells Fargo and the Kings decided that we need to improve the systems in place. This is about making sure that generations of students benefit from the investments we make today. I’m thankful these partners have the insight, as part of their corporate responsibility, to work with community-based institutions with a track record of success on the ground.”