Connecting Families to Unlock Their Potential
When Kristen Roberts and her team were planning an Internet Essentials event at the Springfield Urban League in Western Massachusetts this past fall, the challenge was how to convey the real difference the program can make in the lives of Springfield-area residents who lacked access to the Internet in their homes.
That’s when Kristen, vice president of public relations and community investment for Comcast’s Western New England Region, thought of inviting Ginger as a guest speaker to share her experience. She knew it was the right decision, and it was later affirmed by many attendees at the event. Kristen knew that Ginger, a Hartford, Conn. native, was enrolled at American International College in Springfield, Mass., just down the road from the Springfield Urban League offices.
As a high school freshman in 2010, Ginger had been conscientious about her grades and struggled to earn a B average. At the same time, she was passionate about her after-school activities, and each day, she rushed from her school classroom to take singing and dance classes, which ended about 6 p.m. This left a three-hour window for Ginger to get to the Wilson-Gray YMCA in Hartford, Conn. before it closed so she could complete her homework in the teen center – if by chance a computer was available for her to use.
"I remember having 30 minutes to write a two-page paper," Ginger recalled. "If I couldn’t finish it in that time, I’d have to wait for someone else to take their turn [before I could get back on the computer]. Sometimes, I wasn’t able to finish my homework due to not having computer access."
On days when she had a lot of school projects to do, Ginger skipped her after-school activities to make sure she had additional time in the computer lab to get her school work done. With about three-and-a-half hours of homework a night, she realized she was fighting a losing battle.
Ginger was one of the nearly 30 percent of Americans without broadband access in her home. This statistic was even higher at the Wilson-Gray YMCA, where about 65 percent of its members could not go online at home – including Ginger.
For these reasons, Ginger clearly remembers the day in August 2011 when the executive director of the YMCA introduced Internet Essentials to Ginger and her family, who jumped at the chance to enroll. It was then when Kristen and team were introduced to Ginger who attended and spoke about her experience as one of the first Internet Essentials customers in the region.
"I was so excited to get Internet Essentials and a computer at home," she said. "It gave me the free time so that every day wasn’t a struggle [to get my homework done]."
Ginger’s grades quickly improved. In June 2014, she graduated with a 3.5 GPA, earned several scholarships, and is now attending American International College. She is the first in her family to enroll in college, and hopes to major in political science.
"I’m so proud of the young woman Ginger has become," Kristen said. She recalled the drive last year to the Urban League event. "I picked her up from college and as we chatted in the car it struck me how much she had grown up and matured from when I initially met her at the YMCA. It’s heartwarming to see firsthand how Internet Essentials affected the life of this young woman."
Ginger wowed the crowd at the Springfield Urban League event.
"I wanted to speak because if Internet Essentials could help me, I know it can help others, too," Ginger said. "It’s helping my younger sister, who now enjoys the benefits of Internet Essentials at home in Connecticut."