When kids don’t have computers at home, their ability to do the kind of Internet-based homework that most kids do, or read up on world events, or access homework tutorials or even explore is sorely compromised.

Many kids from low-income households do not have computers at home or have computers but  no access to high speed Internet connections. They are caught in the “digital divide” that separates wealthy and low income students and contributes to the achievement gap, says Dr. Mark Ryan, the superintendent of the Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy in the city’s northwest corner.

So Ryan teamed up with Sprint wireless network company and its Spring Project Connect program to see what if he could get more computers into the hands of OMI students.

This week Sprint donated 130 Chromebook laptop computers to Oakland Military Institute children within a $100,000 technology grant that also includes WiFi equipment for widespread access to the Sprint network.

Oakland Military Institute is an independent charter school founded in 2001 by then Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown – now governor of California – to offer a rigorous academic and athletic program and military style rules. The Institute had 720 students, 83 percent of whom come from low income families as defined by their eligibility for the federal free lunch program.

Ryan said he was frustrated that these kids could not take advantage of the plethora of academic Internet sites and online applications, even one the school uses in much of its work, a college preparatory application.

“This is about the digital divide, and that absolutely leads to the gap in achievement and opportunities,” he said in an interview.

Chromebooks are inexpensive laptop computers with a Google web-based operating systems and Google applications that reside on the Internet. They rely on WiFi for Internet access and the cloud for pretty much everything they do. Google designed them with the education market in mind, or the idea that the availability of cheap computers might mean more kids get access to computing. Samsung and several other computer makers manufacture them.

Sprint’s donation is Samsung Chromebooks.

The whole idea behind Chromebook was to make computers more accessible to kids, particularly kids in low income families or third world and second world communities

Sprint community affairs manager Michelle Chisholm said that Sprint Project Connect has donated equipment and time to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children but this is the first time it has worked with an individual school.

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