Chicago Tribune - April 29, 2020 - Arianna Love has been sharing a computer with four other family members as she finishes the school year through e-learning at home after schools closed down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Love, 15, has her own laptop to complete her freshman year at the 21st Century Charter School in Gary.
On Wednesday, the ECIER Foundation (Educate Create Innovate Entrepreneur Relationships) in partnership with Michels, a Wisconsin-based energy company, and the Indiana American Water Co., provided Dell laptops to nine Gary-area high school students to aid in their online lessons.
The students are members of John Will Anderson Boys and Girls Club in Gary where the distribution took place.
ECIER board member Paige Rothrock, of Crown Point, a project manager at Michels, said she reached out to students and their families to see what they needed after Gov. Eric Holcomb closed schools for the remainder of the year.
Like other areas around the area and state, there's uneven access to technology in Gary. Many families don't have personal computers or internet, leaving students vulnerable as classes shift online during the pandemic.
Love, who joined the Boys and Girls Club at age 5, said she will share her new laptop with other family members. "I'll share it, but mainly I'll use it to keep up with online classes."
Students typically follow their teachers online three days a week, said Marcus Steele Jr., 17, a junior at Calumet New Tech.
He has been doing his online studies on his iPad, and he said the computer will be a big upgrade.
He's homebound with his parents and his mom needs her laptop daily for her job at state Family and Social Services Administration.
"A computer will mean I can sit at a desk and not have to navigate on the iPad," he said.
He said for the most part, his online work has gone smoothly because Calumet New Tech has been holding e-learning days about once a month.
"They're a little more on top of it and prepared," Steele said.
Besides Love and Steele, others who received laptops included Peter T. Webb, Roosevelt College and Career Academy; Breana Weathersby, Lighthouse Preparatory Academy; Angela Tipton, Lighthouse; Charles Johnson, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy; Asiya Muhammad, Steel City Academy; Julian Rainey, Thea Bowman and Kevon Gibson, Steel City.
ECIER founder and chairwoman Chareice White said Chicagoland Popcorn, based in Merrillville and St. John, also donated gourmet popcorn treats to the students.
A non-profit, ECIER stands for "Educate Create Innovate Entrepreneur Relationships." It launched in 2013.
ECIER students are required to attend entrepreneurial workshops targeted on developing their academic, creative and leadership skills. If students continue to meet ECIER guidelines, they qualify for scholarships.
From 2014 to 2019, White said 153 students took part in the program and 63 students received scholarships worth $187,600.