Through his Why Not? Foundation, Rockets star Russell Westbrook is purchasing 650 laptop computers to help better facilitate online learning for children in Houston who are no longer able to physically attend school due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Schools in Houston are closed indefinitely amid the outbreak, with lessons shifting online. However, in what's become known as the "digital divide," many students and their families do not have the home infrastructure or technology to immediately make the transition.
That's where a new initiative from the nine-time NBA All-Star and former MVP comes in.
"I'm extremely excited to be able to collaborate with Comp-U-Dopt and find ways to be able to impact the youth immediately," Westbrook said Monday at a press conference with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "It's something that I'm very, very passionate about through my foundation, and I'm just trying to find a way — especially now — to be able to bridge the gap and give kids access to another way of learning, through computers. This allows them to be able to continue their education, especially from home. I'm happy to be a part of it."
Now more than ever, we need our internet providers to help our students close the digital divide in our city.@russwest44 through his Why Not? Foundation and Comp U Dot will donate 650 laptops for students in our city to assist them with their digital education.#COVID19— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner)April 13, 2020
Turner added: "Russell Westbrook proves why he is a champion on and off the court. This donation will be a game-changer for many students and their families coping with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The generous contribution will help young people stay focused on their education at home and until they can return to their classroom."
Per@SylvesterTurner, Russell Westbrook (through his Why Not? foundation) has purchased 650 computers for young students and their families in Houston. They’ll be used to help facilitate online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose)April 13, 2020
According to Comp-U-Dopt, which has distributed nearly 1,000 computers to Houston families through its ongoing program, 83% of recipients are living in households earning less than $35,000 annually.
"The generous gift will allow us to significantly increase our inventory and ensure we can to continue to close the gap for Houston families most in need," said Colin Dempsey, executive director at Comp-U-Dopt.
The organization describes itself as a nonprofit providing technology access and education to under-served youth in the Houston and Galveston area.
"One in three economically disadvantaged students in the Houston area lack access to a computer at home," Dempsey said. "With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the closure of schools, there is an immediate need to get more computers to students and families without access at home."
In the Houston area's 10 largest school districts, about 9% of households — nearly 142,650 — do not have a computer, according to U.S. Census estimates. Nearly twice that number — about 267,250 households — lack broadband internet access, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Westbrook is also assisting his hometown of Los Angeles amid the COVID-19 pandemic with a recent donation to the Angeleno Fund.
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