The Gainesville Housing Authority and the University of Florida on Monday held an event at the Cade Museum to commemorate the launch of their pilot program Tech4Success.
The program aims to give more opportunities to low-income families that are participating in virtual learning by giving them access to educational technology and support.
Qualifying families must live in housing authority properties in East Gainesville and have high school students with a minimum GPA of 3.6. Tech4Success provides students with a MacBook laptop and their parent or guardian with an iPad. It also pairs them with a mentor from the UF Office of Distance Learning. Students are then eligible to enroll in the online UF Dual Enrollment Program and can receive technical support services, tutoring, and other supportive services according to their needs.
Pamela Davis, the housing authority chief executive, said the program is about more than just providing technology to students.
“Tech4Success gives them the ability to see a future outside of public housing,” Davis said. “Tech4Success offers them hope.”
While speaking at the launch, Davis shared that she also grew up in public housing and sees this program as an opportunity to get people up and out so they can help others. The program is rooted in the idea that public housing is a temporary solution and that technology can allow these students to change their lives and futures.
“We want to provide you with the opportunity to move on so you can help someone else have your slot,” Davis said.
Earlier this year, UF President Kent Fuchs released a memo to urge staff and the UF community to address racial inequity in the area and Tech4Success is a part of that initiative. Brian Marchman, director of the UF Office of Distance Learning said that this program is targeting students and families of color and helping to diversify the students involved in UF’s Dual Enrollment program so that these students who would otherwise not have the option to attend a university have the opportunity to earn UF credits and even transfer with their associate’s degree after two years in the program.
“UF looks forward to this opportunity to be a good neighbor in East Gainesville,” Marchman said.
Four families were selected to participate in the pilot program with two students from Eastside High School, one from Gainesville High School, and one from Florida Virtual School. The families were all eager to have this opportunity and expand the possibilities for their student’s future.
Kyanda Mosley, a junior at Eastside High school, is excited about the opportunities the program will give her.
“Last year in my math class I was told that I needed this very expensive calculator, the TI inspire. I went the whole year without it and when I was introduced to this program they asked what I needed and that was the first thing I said. And now I got it so I’ve been learning how to use it over the years but with the school calculator and now I’ve got my own to use for homework and stuff so I’m excited about that,” Mosley said.
Mosley is a student who dreams of attending UF and becoming a child psychologist. She has previously given a TED talk at her high school about the importance of empathy and hopes that this program continues long after she graduates.
Mosley’s mother, Racheal Jenkins, is also hopeful about the opportunities for her daughter’s future and is excited to be more involved in her education with the iPad that the program gave her. Despite not having much experience with new technology, Jenkins is determined to learn and do everything she can to help her daughter be successful.
“Whatever she needs me to help her with, whatever I need to do to help her succeed in life, that’s what I’m gonna do, no questions asked,” Jenkins said.
The launch was filled with smiles and high spirits as new MacBooks and iPads were handed out to each of the families along with device accessories and backpacks for the students.
UF and GHA hope that this program will continue for years to come and become a model for other communities across the nation.
The program’s success will be measured by the Office of Distance Learning, which will collect data and report on participation and academic achievement. The Tech4Success fact sheet details that success will be measured on the three primary dimensions of the student’s academic performance and college aspirations, parents’ use of technology to support their student, and GHA’s commitment to the program to continue for other GHA residents.