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West Charlotte students receive 2,000 laptops from Project LIFT

Electrolux, in separate gift, commits $100,000 for 20 scholarships at JCSU

Project LIFT, the nonprofit effort to boost performance at nine west Charlotte schools, distributed new laptops Tuesday, while Electrolux announced a gift of scholarship money aimed at West Charlotte High students.

At Druid Hills Academy, representatives from Project LIFT and the international nonprofit One Laptop per Child began handing out the first of 2,000 laptop computers that will go to every first-, second-, third- and fourth-grader in the LIFT zone.

Meanwhile, at the sprawling Electrolux North America headquarters in north Charlotte, CEO Jack Truong announced the company’s commitment of $100,000 for 20 scholarships – each worth $5,000 – over the next four years at Johnson C. Smith University.

The 2,000 laptops, specially designed for primary school children, are part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s $4 million investment in Project LIFT.

It marks One Laptop per Child’s largest U.S. project in its eight-year history.

“Access to the Internet and digital skills are vital for success in today’s connected world. We hope these devices can give the students a jump start to learning and living digitally,” said Susan Patterson, Charlotte program director of the Knight Foundation.

Project LIFT wants 90 percent of all west Charlotte elementary students to perform at grade level, achieve more than a year’s academic growth in each grade and ultimately graduate from high school.

The laptops are a critical part of that effort, officials said. The Knight Foundation has been training teachers and students on the machines, and officials have developed lesson plans that integrate the laptops.

Project LIFT is also offering parents the chance to buy laptops cheaply and offering broadband access for a year.

“These strategies will no doubt introduce 21st-century technology to our students and help bridge the technology gap,” said Project LIFT Zone Superintendent Denise Watts.

Investing in math, science

The Electrolux scholarships will support five West Charlotte High students per year who want to study at JCSU’s respected College of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

“Our community and our world need more students who are well-prepared in the STEM subjects,” Truong said. “…Our continued success depends on our ability to hire well-trained students with backgrounds in engineering, mathematics and the sciences.”

On the stage with Truong were JCSU President Ron Carter, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and West Charlotte High Principal John Wall.

Carter called Electrolux’s partnership “an investment that will bring returns.”

He reminded the crowd that JCSU broke ground last year for a 62,000-square-foot research center for STEM subjects. The school’s Charlotte’s Web program, he said, is already mentoring 20 West Charlotte boys in technology and is ranked 18th in the country for graduating African-Americans in computer and information sciences.

“The scholarship you have announced demonstrates Electrolux also is dedicated to thinking about highly innovative, yet thoughtful and intuitive ways to support a future-educated workforce,” Carter said.

Wall said the scholarships will resonate and “surely make a difference in the lives of many worthy students at West Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith.”

Foxx, a 1989 West Charlotte High graduate, grew up near both schools off Beatties Ford Road.

“We face a tsunami of kids who enter into the workforce unprepared for the future,” Foxx said. “I am enormously proud of the association of Johnson C. Smith and Project LIFT in trying to counteract that tsunami by giving our young people not handouts, but the tools to compete in the global economy.”

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