Anzar High School students and community members stood in line in the school’s library hoping to receive one of the 100 free Acer Chromebooks and Moxie mobile hotspots being distributed by the San Benito County Free Library (SBCFL) that day. Thanks to a $11.4 million federal grant through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, the SBCFL Connect program will distribute 10,000 Chromebooks and hotspots throughout the county.
“I think this is going to give our students that are graduating and going to college access to computers that they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to,” said Anzar teacher/librarian Michelle Beske. “Some of these families that have never had computers or access to WIFI before are going to get not just a computer but a hotspot that will help them get connected.”
The ongoing Chromebook program focuses on students and low-income households. Applying for the equipment is as easy as getting a county library card, signing a form saying you are a student or you are in financial need, getting permission from a parent (if a minor) and showing up at a distribution event.
Anzar students received the forms on March 21 in their classes after County Librarian Nora Conte reached out to Anzar teacher/librarian Michelle Beske asking for assistance in spreading the word.
“I think this is gonna give our students that are graduating and going to college access to computer that they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to and some of these families that have never had access to computers before are going to get access not until only to a computer but to a hotspot some of our community members don’t have access to Wi-Fi and that will help them get connected.”
Anzar senior Josh Vega was in class on March 19 when he heard about the Chromebooks and was given an application.
“This is really helpful to me and a great opportunity for college in the future,” he said. “It saves me money and I don’t have to go out and spend on a MacBook or an HP. I currently have an iPad, but it’s a lot more difficult to access certain apps and do certain tasks. So, it would be a great switch. And in reality, a Chromebook is a Chromebook and it can do a lot of things.”
There was also direct outreach to the outlying areas of the county, including Jose Garcia, the migrant counselor for the Aromas San-Juan School District, spreading the word in the workers camps.
“You know, when you’re low social economic status, you don’t have the resources to be able to afford a hotspot and a computer,” he said. “So, it’s gonna make a huge difference. We certainly we hope that it’s gonna be easier for them to maintain their grades and complete assignments and the parents also will be better informed of just how their children are doing.”
There is no estimate on how many people applied for the equipment for the Anzar event, but a second distribution event was scheduled when the initial supply brought by the county librarians proved insufficient. Further distributions will be held at Aromas School and San Juan Elementary for students and community members in those areas.
Chromebook and hotspot distribution events are not currently scheduled for other parts of the county but can be accessed from the county library at 470 Fifth Street in Hollister. See program information here.
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