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United Way and AT&T Partner to Help Bridge the Digital Divide in Dallas

The initiative will provide thousands of free laptops, digital literacy and tech support to Southern Dallas residents.

January 28, 2022

AT&T and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas have teamed up to help bridge the digital divide in Southern Dallas. AT&T is contributing $1 million to our Southern Dallas Thrives initiative to provide residents with free laptops, digital literacy training and technology support over two years.

The program is the latest progress point for Southern Dallas Thrives, an initiative created in partnership with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, The PepsiCo Foundation and Frito-Lay North America, which advances outcomes for students pre-K-12, increases food access, and supports women entering and advancing in the workforce.

The goal of the program is to help students in Southern Dallas neighborhoods engage in online learning and set them up for success in today’s digital school and job environments.

Addressing the Digital Divide

The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who don’t. This divide has existed for decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significant challenges that students experience when they don’t have access to the technology or skills they need to succeed.

Millions of students across the country cannot connect to online learning opportunities because they don’t have reliable internet access or a computer at home and they lack digital literacy skills. This is especially true in communities that have been historically underserved and have a high percentage of people of color, which includes Southern Dallas. These students often fall behind their peers in the classroom and beyond.

“When we consider the impact of the pandemic on our communities and the rise in virtual supports, digital access is critical for North Texas families,” said Cathy Kang, director of educational career success at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “These devices, hotspots and opportunities for greater connectivity will enable our students in Southern Dallas to continue their learning. The program will also ensure families can access a broad range of other important supports, like accessing health care, finding COVID testing sites, applying for schools and jobs, booking telehealth appointments and more. This initiative is a great start, but we need to keep going to ensure that every family has the access they deserve to these critical resources.”

“This collaboration with United Way builds on the continued commitment we have to addressing the digital divide in Dallas,” said Mike Peterson, vice president, AT&T Texas External Affairs. “AT&T is committed to the city of Dallas, and with this contribution we are helping to remove technology barriers to education and job success for underserved students and families in southern Dallas neighborhoods.”

Encouraging Equity in Education

AT&T’s $1 million contribution to our Southern Dallas Thrives initiative will provide more than 2,000 refurbished laptops, digital literacy workshops and technology support to K-12 students, young adults and families. The first batch of laptops were distributed to students at Lincoln High School the week of Jan. 24.

“We are honored to collaborate with AT&T to provide the students and families in Southern Dallas with digital resources to overcome the challenges associated with the digital divide,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Our work with AT&T will bolster our efforts through the Southern Dallas Thrives initiative to advance economic opportunity for students and ensure they can be competitive and successful in obtaining the living-wage jobs of the future.”

Show Your Support for Local Students

Students across North Texas are struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes this an excellent time to show your support for local children. Here are three opportunities to join our efforts to improve access to education right here at home:

  • Give: Invest in United Way to support programs like Southern Dallas Thrives that benefit students and their families throughout North Texas.
  • Advocate: Improving education is always one of our top priorities when we communicate with our elected officials. Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts to receive information on our current policy priorities plus notifications on when and how to connect with your elected officials.
  • Volunteer: Each March, we celebrate United Way Reading Day, a fun-filled annual tradition with a goal of encouraging more kids to fall in love with reading. We’re looking for volunteers who can support this initiative by purchasing or donating books in an online or local book drive.

Invest in Lasting Change

When you invest in United Way, you create lasting change right here in our community. The money raised here stays here to improve access to education, income and health so all North Texans can thrive.