Mesa company helps foster kids connect online The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa company helps foster kids connect online

Mesa company helps foster kids connect online
Business
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

When COVID-19 shuttered schools across the nation and forced students to shift to online learning, ER2 in Mesa was uniquely poised to help.

The business, which provides new and refurbished technology to customers, donated 100 new Chromebooks to children in foster care, ensuring they would have the technology they needed to succeed in an e-learning environment during the pandemic and beyond.

Robia Iggnhyte of Chandler said her foster son, a high school student, was thrilled to receive a Chromebook.

“He was extremely happy, smiling from ear to ear,” said. “He was also excited to know that the laptop belongs to him and he has something to call his own.”

Though primarily intended for schoolwork, the laptops offer benefits beyond academic achievement.

“Currently, he’s unable to visit with family and/or peers,” said Iggnhyte. “In addition to educational needs, the laptop allows him to connect with peers during uncertain times. He said, ‘this means so much to me.’”

Many children lack access to computers at home, but the issue is especially problematic for kids in the foster care system.

While 90 percent of U.S. teens have access to a computer, only 20 percent of urban foster youth – and 5 percent of foster kids in rural areas – have access.

“The ripple effect of this technology gap is sobering: Nationally, fewer than 70 percent of kids in foster care graduate from high school,” company spokeswoman Katy Springer said.

“Our strategic focus for 2020 includes helping children in foster care,” said Gina Lidster, ER2’s director of human resources and team member engagement. “Donating the computers was a perfect opportunity to live our vision of serving this often-overlooked population.”

“Every kid deserves to take classes without disruptions, and tech is vital to that,” added Darren DaRonco, a spokesman for the state Department of Child Safety. “These computers are theirs to keep, whether they move back home or are placed with another family. It’s a really big deal for kids who have very few things to call their own.”

ER2 has partnered with DCS since 2018, when the department launched its Fostering Achievement through Computer Technology (F.A.C.T.) program, which provides technology and training to Arizona’s foster youth to boost academic achievement and level the playing field.

“Our involvement with the F.A.C.T. program has provided hundreds of brand-new devices to teens,” said Derek Jackson, vice president of sales for ER2. “We plan to continue supporting the program to give these kids a boost, as our company is committed to donating 10% of our time, talent and treasure back to our community throughout the year.”

Since the program’s inception, F.A.C.T. has benefited 300 youth in the Arizona foster
care system.

In addition to receiving laptops that are theirs to keep, teens complete online safety and responsibility training from the Phoenix Police Department, Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, and The Arizona State Attorney General’s Office. ′

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