To help students cross this educational divide, we are partnering on a groundbreaking initiative for Chicago high schoolers. The Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge — which debuted in October 2014 — uses a technology-based platform of games, pop culture, recognition, and rewards to motivate 13- to 19-year-old students to prepare for college. The program plays an important role in our commitment to helping prepare the next generation to thrive in the 21st-century economy, which in turn fuels our long-term business success.
Chicago students participated in the inaugural Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge between October 2014 and January 2015
8,000:Number of times students logged in
54,000:College-readiness actions completed
8.6 million:Points earned
"Get Schooled, Get Connected taps into the digital resources we know kids need to be successful in high school and going on to college," says Carol Rava Treat, Director of External Affairs for the Get Schooled Foundation, a national nonprofit founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom. "But we wrap these resources in an entertaining package that ensures high engagement and high return rates. It's a marriage of substance and sizzle."
The Get Schooled Foundation provides the educational content for the challenge, while partners such as the Chicago City of Learning, the Digital Youth Network, Chicago Public Schools, and dozens of Chicago-based community organizations help students connect with the content. Participants from eligible low-income households were pre-approved for high-speed home broadband access through our Internet Essentials program, helping ensure that a higher percentage of Chicago teens could take part in the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge. Internet Essentials provides eligible families with Internet access for less than $10 per month.
"Students who don’t have home Internet access are really hobbled in their educational trajectory," Carol says. "It’s harder to do homework, check grades, and especially complete all the steps necessary to get into college. Comcast’s participation in the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge is extremely valuable and illustrates the company’s commitment to investing in communities."
Dr. Shawn Jackson, Deputy Chief of Teaching and Learning at Chicago Public Schools, agrees that closing the technology gap through Internet Essentials is critical to making programs like the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge successful. "It boils down to understanding the importance of the digital medium," he says. "Our district’s partnership with Comcast and other organizations has been instrumental in our progress so far."
In 2014, we donated more than $200,000 to Chicago organizations to support Internet Essentials and other digital literacy programs. This included $100,000 for the Children First Foundation, the Chicago City of Learning, and other contributing partners to the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge. These resources helped community organizations expand their capacity and connect more kids and families to the Internet. In addition, we gave away laptops to 40 students who were active in the inaugural 12-week challenge.
By leveraging the key influences in their lives, such as rock stars, athletes, and pop culture characters, the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge keeps teens’ attention. Students can watch First Lady Michelle Obama discuss what to expect when applying for financial aid, get school advice from Chicago Bears player Jordan Mills, and learn how to impress college recruiters — while keeping brain-eaters at bay — in the game Zombie College.
"It’s important for us to keep students connected," Dr. Jackson says. "Digital media is what our students know and how they communicate. As educators, we’re trying to harness the 21st-century skills students are building outside of school and integrate them within our classrooms, because that’s how they’re engaging with the world."
Students who earned the most points and badges at the end of the challenge were invited to a celebration with celebrities including actress and singer Christina Milian and MTV’s Sway Calloway. The Get Schooled Foundation, the Chicago City of Learning, and other partners are looking at ways to build on the success of the challenge going forward.
Sybil Madison-Boyd, a program director for the Digital Youth Network, says the Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge demonstrates the importance of improving digital literacy among today’s youth. "Education today is beyond the brick and mortar of school walls," she says. "There’s power in the digital tools teens use every day, but many have never been introduced to these opportunities before. That’s why it’s so important to provide access to the Internet and the educational resources it offers."