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How one middle schooler sparked a move to end digital divide

By Carol E. Quillen
Special to the Observer

“Dad, how do kids without the Internet do their homework?” For Franny Millen, then a sixth-grade student at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius, the digital divide posed a threat to educational opportunity in her neighborhood school. And from Franny’s standpoint, it had to go.

Franny’s leadership inspired a town, a school system, The Ada Jenkins Center, Lowe’s, and Davidson College to join together and accomplish in six months what others across this nation claim cannot be done. E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide) launched in January. Last week, more than 50 families for the first time gained home Internet access, ownership of a computer, and free ongoing technical support – Davidson Elementary School’s digital divide is officially history.

E2D demonstrates how a single voice can mobilize individuals and organizations from different sectors to achieve together what none could do alone. And E2D is rapidly expanding its reach.

One “no” early on could have ended E2D before it began. One “the problem is too big,” or “one school does not matter,” or “this can’t scale,” and E2D would never have happened.

Instead, what began as a single heartfelt question is inspiring a cross-sector collaboration in which public school districts, businesses, CBOs, and colleges will join together to create equality of opportunity – opportunities to learn, to work, to lead, to connect and to build community – through the power of technology.

Davidson College is proud to be a partner in this effort. Our primary purpose – to lead in service of something larger than ourselves – obligates us to convene public/private partnerships and to collaborate across ideological and institutional boundaries to confront our society’s greatest challenges.

As we move forward together, we will learn how schools, families and communities can work together to ensure that all of our children have access to the educational resources that new technologies offer. With each new success our aspirations will soar and new partnerships will form. We will share with other communities what we have learned and show them what is possible. Across our region, state, and country, we can and will eliminate the digital divide and make equal opportunity real – for every school kid – one computer at a time.

Dr. Carol E. Quillen is the president of Davidson College. For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer’s, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
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