PI 515 donates 30 laptops to low-income students during coronavirus

30 low-income students in the Des Moines area have been given laptops by PI 515 so that they can continue to have internet access while school buildings are closed as a result of coronavirus.

The donations came last week after Des Moines Public Schools announced that schools will be closed until at least March 30.

Founded in 2014, P1 515 is a Des Moines-based nonprofit organization that empowers refugee and disadvantaged youth to success by teaching them technology skills.

“A lot of people don’t realize that having a laptop and internet access is quite a privilege,” said Nancy Mwirotsi, founder of PI 515. “These kids don’t have access to online learning. They don’t have access to after-school programs. They don’t have access to online libraries.”

Nearly all American students have access to computers and the internet in their schools. But at home, the cost of internet service, and sometimes the lack of availability, creates problems in rural areas, and even cities. 

A study published in June of last year found that an estimated 17% of U.S. students do not have access to computers at home. The study also found that students with access to home Internet service consistently score higher in reading, math and science.

“My goal right now is to step up and keep asking these companies to realize the importance of making sure that this happens,” said Mwirotsi. “Its very, very urgent problem.”

Mediacom is also helping by offering free Internet access through their Connect2Compete program. Qualifying families who subscribe before May 15 will get two months of free internet access, followed by internet service $9.95/month.

Your household may qualify if you have at least one student in grades K-12 living at home; at least one child qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); and you are not a current Mediacom internet customer.

Food assistance for students

PI 515 is also raising funds to help the food insecurity issues that have come with the school closings. Many families rely on free breakfast and lunch programs at least five days per week to feed their children.

Last week, the nonprofit raised just over $2,300 that will go towards distributing emergency food gift cards to families in need.

In addition, PI 515 has compiled a list of schools in the Des Moines area that are continuing to offer meals for families that rely on free breakfast and lunch programs. The list includes all the schools participating along with details about where and when the free mails can be picked up.

Previous coverage

PI 515: Using technology to break the cycle of poverty -July 12, 2017