Last week, Hands to Help completed a technology drive that provided 65 Apple iPads and chargers to high school students in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Students also received protective cases for their new tablets, all of which were provided courtesy of Merrimack’s Information Technology Services Department.
Rosana Urbaez, director of the Hands to Help Program, said she had asked teachers at Lawrence High School for a list of students who needed devices after hearing some students were relying on phones to log into their virtual classrooms. Students and their families picked up their devices and chargers at the Hands to Help office in Lawrence over the past week.
“We knew right away that many families in Lawrence weren’t equipped to do virtual learning,” Urbaez said. “At the same time, Lawrence was a city in which COVID-19 was running rampant because it includes so many essential workers. We know it’s important for students to have the right technology to avoid gaps in learning and to continue learning — no matter the method of delivery.”
Allison Balter, who is principal of the ENLACE program at Lawrence High School, said the iPads will help her students improve their English. ENLACE (Engaging Newcomers in Language and Content Education) serves ninth and 10th grade English language learners who have been in the U.S. for less than two years and are just beginning their English language development.
“Our school and our students are so grateful for this generous donation. In the midst of this challenging year, our students and their teachers have had to take school entirely online, and this has been especially difficult for students with limited access to technology,” Batler said. “This donation will help more of our students access online learning and also help them to practice their English at home.”
Karla Hilerio, a student at Lawrence High School, expressed her appreciation to Hands to Help in an email, crediting the program for assisting struggling students during the pandemic.
“It means the world to me and my classmates that you guys thought of us. This pandemic has changed all of us and it’s been very rough for everyone — especially for students who are having a hard time focusing in school,” she said. “The iPads come in handy. I love that our community is doing everything they can to keep us safe and comfortable and the iPad is helping me get everything done for my classes.”
Before the iPads were distributed, the IT Department ensured all devices were wiped and in good working order. Urbaez said she anticipates that some form of remote learning will continue into the future, and that this partnership is a great example of the type of outreach Merrimack and the Hands to Help program could provide for future students.
Hands to Help is a neighborhood resource center whose mission is to enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower the lives of members of the Lawrence community. The drop-in center provides a variety of services to the community of Lawrence and surrounding areas. Services include:
- After-school tutoring
- College guidance and application support
- ESL classes
- Tax assistance
- Job preparation
- Resume building
- Summer day camp
- General form assistance
Additionally, Hands to Help acts as an information referral site to other local non-profits and offers resources, such as computers, for public use.