Dr. Lupita Ley Hightower

Dr. Lupita Ley Hightower. (Photo courtesy Dr. Lupita Ley Hightower)

I remember when Cox announced its offering of a discounted internet service nearly four years ago. We were absolutely thrilled at Tolleson Elementary School District. Their national program, Connect2Compete (C2C), offers discounted internet service for families with at least one K-to-12 student living in public housing or qualifying for a free or reduced school lunch through the National School Lunch Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is important for students and families less privileged, particularly because they do not have the resources to stay ahead of the technology train.

We have very high expectations in our schools and every assessment is now online. Additionally, nearly all students (96.5 percent) say they are required to use the internet to complete homework assignments outside of school, yet one-third of students in the United States lack access to high-speed internet and digital technology in their homes. Students of low-income backgrounds and their families who lack an internet connection at home struggle to keep pace with their peers.

Research tells us that students with a PC and broadband at home have graduation rates that are 6 to 8 percent higher than similar students who don’t have home access to the internet. As technology is continuing to take over the classroom, it has become more important than ever to set our students up for success and close the digital divide by providing students with essential tools. Those tools – digital literacy skills and high-speed internet connectivity – are imperative to students’ success in the classroom and in the future workplace.

I have a huge responsibility to ensure students have the best chance at success. One of the ways I work to fulfill this responsibility is by collaborating with local companies/partnerships to provide valuable resources to our students. We are so grateful for the community support and all our partners!

Since its inception, more than half of students receiving discounted internet service at home through C2C have reported being more interested in school and have seen improvement in their grades. One happy C2C customer, Beatriz, a mother of two students, reported that before she had internet service at home, she and her kids would seek internet connections at libraries and other public Wi-Fi areas just so her kids could complete their homework. Today, Beatriz and C2C parents like her are able stay on top of their kids’ grades and attendance information, and can communicate with their teachers all from their own home.

I’m excited to continue working with local businesses to provide resources to close the digital divide here in the Valley once and for all for the sake of our future generation.

Dr. Lupita Ley Hightower is the superintendent of Tolleson Elementary School District No. 17. Hightower has worked in education for more than 21 years in various roles as a teacher, mentor, assistant principal, principal, district level director, assistant superintendent and superintendent for the last seven years.