UScellular has donated 18 months of wireless service on 525 wireless hotspots to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands to ensure connectivity for local youth through the 2021-22 school year.
In addition to being used to boost internet access for members ages 6-18 at all 14 Omaha metro area clubs, many hotspots have been sent to Club members’ homes to provide youth with internet access for virtual learning and homework when not physically in school.
When Omaha-area schools closed for in-person learning in early 2020, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands received federal funding through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act to supply 525 UScellular hotspots and service for their Club members. This funding expired at the end of 2020, and UScellular is now covering the cost of service on the devices until the school year ends in 2022. While Omaha Public Schools are back for in-person classes, the hotspots will continue to be a vital tool for students to study and complete schoolwork at home.
“When we think about how 2020 changed the way that all business and learning was done in our communities, and the impacts that it had specifically on the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, the opportunity to have the 525 UScellular hotspots has been great,” Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands President and CEO Richard Webb said. “The CARES Act funding expired at the end of 2020, and UScellular stepped up to the plate knowing how important these devices had become to stay engaged with our members and their support systems. That was truly extraordinary.
“These devices have played an essential role allowing the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands to engage all members through our VOICE (Virtual Online Interactive Club Experience) programming in meaningful ways,” he said. “We not only engaged all of our members, but we learned how valuable our VOICE programming was in providing opportunities for our Club members and their support systems to engage in activities, such as cooking lessons, virtual games and simply reading together in groups for the social aspect of learning.”
Wireless hotspots have become a lifeline for education during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that youth can participate in remote learning, no matter where they live. The hotspots provided to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands connect to UScellular’s 4G LTE network to provide high-speed connectivity for Club members throughout the Omaha metro area.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands provide an essential service for youth in our community, so when we heard that their hotspot funding was in danger of ending, we knew we had to step in and help,” UScellular Business Area Sales Manager Becki Keeshan said. “Wireless technology is key to providing broadband service to families in both urban and rural areas, and we believe that every household deserves access to reliable internet access. The pandemic has been hard on many people, and kids are no exception. At UScellular, we want to do our part to ensure youth in our area have the resources they need to stay connected when not in their classrooms.”
Since 2015, UScellular has donated $164,000 to Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands, along with countless associate volunteer hours, to support STEM educational opportunities and other initiatives.