In order to bridge the technological gap for distance education that low-income children and young people have, a technology access center was inaugurated today at Casa Ramón, in Juncos. This project of the Network for the Rights of Children and Youth will provide broadband internet and educational resources to about 50 students from the Las Piñas neighborhood in Juncos.
“With the closure of schools due to Covid-19, we saw that the education of many children was being affected, which added anxiety to parents. 75% of the families of children in public schools live below the poverty level. Distance education is a problem for them because 44% of these households do not have internet access and 35% do not have computers, according to census figures. This center in Casa Ramón is going to provide educational alternatives to the children of the community, ”explained Marcos Santana Andújar, executive director of the Network for the Rights of Children and Youth of Puerto Rico (REDENIJ-PR).
About 50 children will benefit from the Las Negras Educational Room at Casa Ramón, a community center for services to children and young people and REDENIJ-PR headquarters in Juncos. The educational room will have broadband internet, technological equipment, such as desktop computers, portable tablets, laptops, as well as a reading area with books by Puerto Rican writers. They will also be given a box with art supplies to promote recreational and educational projects with the family. Students who attend will have a hot packed lunch for themselves and their family.
Students may attend in several shifts, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, to ensure distancing and preventive security measures to avoid the spread of Covid-19. On site there will be supervision and services from a team of social workers, teachers, psychologists, a nurse and a service facilitator, plus volunteers from the community.
The support of various organizations have made this project a reality: the Segarra Boerman and Hijos Inc. Foundation – which Casa Ramón supported from the beginning; the Ángel Ramos Foundation; Hispanic Federation; Banco Popular Foundation; Flamboyán Foundation and Community Foundation.
“These institutions have allowed us to close the digital divide for low-income children here, after the lack of agility of the Department of Education to solve this problem,” said Santana Andújar, who anticipated that he plans to open a similar center in the future. southern area.
He explained that the name of the Las Negras educational hall was decided by the community to support the anti-racist movement “Black lives matter.” The room is dedicated to five black women who have contributed to the education and empowerment of black girls and boys: community leader Ivelisse Esquilín, writer Mayra Santos Febres, teacher Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Gloriann Sacha Antonetty, from Étnica magazine and Elizabeth Andújar, neurocoach for women and girls.
Ivelisse Esquilín, community leader from the Piñas neighborhood, La Hormiga sector in Juncos, shared how important this new center was for the community.
“There was a very big void here. This is an underserved community that has spent years trying to improve itself. We have children and young people who even excel in sports. Many times they limit and discriminate because they live here. Education is very important. Here many children lack internet, they do not have computers. It was sad for me to see the children who entered classes through their cell phone. In my house there are four children and a single laptop that has to be divided. Now with Casa Ramón many of our children and young people are going to have a place to do their schoolwork, ”said the community leader.
The Network for the Rights of Children and Youth of Puerto Rico is a non-profit organization focused on transforming the living conditions of children and families in contexts of violence.
“As an organization, part of our mission is to accompany children and young people in times of emergency. During this pandemic we have had several initiatives and strategies in response to food security, emotional support with psychologists and social workers, housing for homeless youth … We have also had programs to deliver 30,000 pounds of food in Juncos, which is our center of operations. , and in 17 more municipalities and distribution of 15,000 plates of hot lunches for families. Now we support them in their education ”, concluded Santana Andújar