Above: Miami students receive free laptops through the One Laptop Per Child program
Today, Knight Foundation announced it is joining Charlotte’s philanthropic leaders in supporting Project L.I.F.T, a five-year, $55 million initiative to improve student achievement in West Charlotte schools.
Knight is not an education funder, so why would we invest in this effort? We do care about access to technology and engagement, however, and the two grants, totaling just over $4 million, support our interest in “informed and engaged communities.”
One grant will put laptops designed for children into the hands of all kindergarten-through-fifth grade students in seven LIFT schools – that’s about 3,200 laptops.
These One-Laptop-Per-Child laptops will come loaded with a child-oriented Wikipedia, books and other learning tools that the teachers will decide upon. Internet access in West Charlotte is only about 20 to 40 percent of the community, and it’s something parents asked for. We hope these laptops and training will provide our students with the digital skills needed for 21st century life.
The second grant will add a Community Engagement manager (and support staff) to Denise Watt’s small Project L.I.F.T team. They will be allies with Denise in shining a spotlight on the importance of getting all members of the community involved in the L.I.F.T initiative.
In Charlotte, Knight seeks to get more people involved in more ways in community problem-solving. In today’s digital world, that means students – and their families – must have access to that larger world, and community members must be invited, encouraged and supported to participate in ways that are meaningful to them and valuable to the community.
We believe that without the families of the 7,000-plus L.I.F.T students, without the residents of the 30-plus L.I.F.T area neighborhoods and without resources and volunteers from across the community, this could become just another school initiative. With their involvement, L.I.F.T’s successes will continue long after the five-year initiative ends.
By Susan Patterson, program director/Charlotte at Knight Foundation
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