GWATA and NCRL Connect Students with Wifi Hotspots

GWATA and NCRL Connect Students with Wifi Hotspots

The Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance (GWATA) has purchased 50 new T-Mobile Hotspots that will be available for the community to check out through the North Central Regional Library (NCRL). In the upcoming months, these mobile hotspot devices will be made exclusively available to Wenatchee School District (WSD) students who need access to the internet to complete their school work for the duration of the school year.

After the 2019-20 school year ends,  GWATA’s donated hotspots will be housed with NCRL, who will manage the check out of hotspots to the community.

“As the region’s technology alliance, GWATA is committed to supporting our community during this time where access to the internet is proving to be vital to every individual,” said Robert Pageler, GWATA Board President. “Through this new program, we’ve agreed to pay for a minimum of two years of internet access through these 50 mobile hotspots. Our primary goal is to support our local students to ensure that they can continue their education and path to graduation successfully.”

Supporting technology resources and access has been a core focus of the GWATA since the organization was formed in 1999. In the last two years, GWATA has hosted broadband listening sessions with education, business, and nonprofit stakeholders for both Governor Inslee and US Senator Patty Murray raising the awareness for local needs at a State and Federal level. Upon the announcement of the school closures in March, the GWATA Board knew the need for wifi would be great and reached out to WSD to find ways to help. 

Working alongside Ron Brown, Technology Director for WSD, and Heather Inczauskis, STEM Services Manager from NCRL, it was decided that GWATA would purchase additional hotspots to add to NCRL’s current hotspot program with the caveat that these hotspots would go directly to students for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. In addition to GWATA’s 50 hotspots, NCRL plans to supply 40 hotspots to support Wenatchee students as well. 

As we transition to online learning during the extended school closure, internet connectivity is the key to unlocking access to virtual classrooms, said Wenatchee Superintendent Dr. Paul Gordon. “With over 60% of our students living in poverty, there are a significant number of students who lack internet at home. The need for connectivity is great and through this public-private partnership, we’re taking steps to address this challenge and ensure our students have the access necessary to continue their education.”

For the past several months, NCRL has been piloting their T-Mobile hotspot program with a set of 10 hotspots. While the library system already provides free internet access through both public-access computers and open WiFi network, those services are limited to patrons at one of the physical library branches. Through the mobile hotspot program, NCRL is able to address additional needs from the community, such as children who need the internet for schoolwork at home, or location-based usage like accessing the web on agricultural sites.

“We are excited for this partnership with GWATA because it will allow NCRL to make a greater impact and continue to bridge the digital access gap that we see across the region,” said Inczauskis. “The community can expect these hotspots to be available this summer for check out across all of our 30 library branches in North Central Washington.”

GWATA is committed to supporting the region by providing accessible resources to everyone. While this project was not in GWATA’s operational budget for 2020, the Board of Directors felt the urgency of the current worldwide crisis meant the organization needed to act, and fast. 

“This was an opportunity for our non-profit to make a difference for our local students, families, and community members,” Pageler added. “But we can’t do it alone. We invite the community to get involved and support this program and future technology initiatives.”

Community members can support this program, as well as other GWATA initiatives and resources, by visiting www.gwata.org/donate to make a one-time or recurring donation. For questions, please contact GWATA at info@gwata.org to reach the team directly during this time. 

Community members can support this hotspot program by visiting www.gwata.org/donate to make a one-time or recurring donation. For questions, please contact GWATA at info@gwata.org to reach the team directly during this time.

About GWATA

Since 1999, GWATA (the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance) has served as the region’s tech alliance, championing growth and development in North Central Washington. As a 501(c)3, GWATA’s mission is to bring people and technology resources together while supporting entrepreneurs, STEM education, and technology. For more information visit www.gwata.org

About NCRL

Started in 1960, NCRL was established to provide services in five counties in North Central Washington: Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Grant, and Okanogan. Our mission is to connect the people of North Central Washington to vital resources and opportunities that foster individual growth and strengthen communities. We provide many services including mail order, bookmobile services, outreach to schools, nursing homes, retirement centers, farmers markets, community festivals, and of course a wide variety of growing books, digital resources, and nontraditional items. We check out hotspots, nature backpacks (which include a discover pass), and day passes to local attractions. 

About Wenatchee School District

The Wenatchee School District is committed and designed to provide comprehensive instruction from kindergarten through the completion of high school. Student learning is accomplished through a quality educational system by dedicated, caring staff working in partnership with students, parents, and the community. Serving a diverse community the Wenatchee School District’s promise is to know our 7,600 students by name, strength, and need.