Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 19, 2014

Free laptops: Great news for McDowell kids

— — The public-private Reconnecting McDowell campaign is once again coming to the aid of youngsters in McDowell County Schools. Every middle school student in the county is receiving a free laptop computer this week as part of Reconnecting McDowell and its participating partners.

The distribution process began Monday at Mount View Middle School and is continuing at Sandy River Middle School in Avondale and at the Southside K-8 School in War.

The free laptop distribution is the result of contributions and work by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Connect2Compete and the Reconnecting McDowell partnership. In all, an estimated 875 computers are being distributed to the students and their parents this week.

Gayle Manchin, chair of the Reconnecting McDowell campaign, correctly notes that laptops have become an important tool for student homework. Providing the laptop computers to the county’s middle school students makes better use of technology in their classroom work, according to Manchin.

The new laptops will allow the school system to personalize learning, build confidence among students and improve student performance in the classroom through the use of new technology, according to Tomblin. And Earl F. Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, correctly adds the laptops will help students build the skills they need to become the successful workforce of tomorrow.

The laptop distribution was made possible by a $248,188 grant to McDowell Schools. At Reconnecting McDowell’s request, Tomblin allocated $138,594 from the state’s share of the Appalachian Regional Commission funds. Connect2Compete matched the ARC funds with $127,914 in discounts, and McDowell County Schools added $17,680 in an in-kind contribution for processing and training.

Shentel Communication also recently invested $10 million to provide Internet access to 10,000 households in McDowell County and is currently offering reduced rates for households with school-aged children. This significant broadband infrastructure upgrade by Shentel Communication is welcomed, and will benefit both students and adults. A Shentel representative will explain to families and children at upcoming meetings on how to connect to the Internet at home with the new computers.

None of this would have been possible without the Reconnecting McDowell campaign. Launched in December 2011, Reconnecting McDowell now has 125 partners from business, government, labor, non-profit organizations, foundations, universities and the community.

Reconnecting McDowell has and is continuing to make a significant difference in McDowell County. All of those individuals and entities who helped to make this week’s laptop distribution a reality are to be applauded for their efforts.

And we also specifically congratulate the 875 middle school students who are the proud recipients of these new laptops. What a wonderful difference this will make in their middle-school education.

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