Donna Rattley Washington Founder of the Student Internet Equity Coalition
Donna Rattley Washington: Founder of the Student Internet Equity Coalition
Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor
Here is what Donna Rattley Washington had to share during a recent interview with Consciousness Magazine.
Aaron Robinson: Donna, you are the founder of the Student Internet Equity Coalition. What inspired this initiative?
Donna Rattley Washington: I was inspired to create the Student Internet Equity Coalition because I knew that I wanted to contribute in some way to leveling the playing field for our most vulnerable children. I realized that I had the background and the skills to make a real contribution in the area of digital equality for students. I knew that digital equality was a crucial and necessary steppingstone to educational and economic equality.
Aaron: Founding the Student Internet Equity Coalition has to be a passion due to the fact that you are a former executive of Comcast who decided to leave that industry to get all school children from K-12 connected to broadband. What was embedded in your heart or what gave you that drive to want to help children succeed?
Donna: I am not sure if the passion and the desire to change the lives for low-income children comes from the fact that I come from a marginalized group as a Black woman or because I am a mother of three. But I know that I feel the pain of the innocent very deeply. That pain and the desire to see every single child be given the same opportunity to have the life they want and are willing to work for—drives me.
Aaron: When it comes to teens having the proper resources, such as a computer and having the internet to complete their homework, why do you think our Black teens are lacking the most?
Donna: It’s simple—poverty. As a group Black teens are overwhelmingly poorer than white teens. And what we know is that the lack of the internet and a computer at home correlates directly with income and affordability. 35% of families earning under thirty-thousand a year do not have the internet and/or a computer at home. This number is 41% for Black families. For families earning under $25,0000, the statistics are even bleaker. 45% of families with K-12 students earning under $25,000 do not have the internet and/or a computer at home.
Aaron: Once living in a rural and underserved area, I was limited to many technology services where I felt that I was behind when it came to my education. Is Student Internet Equity Coalition looking to change the scope of technology and provide services to underprivileged students and to those students who live in rural areas?
Donna: Absolutely. Rural students are suffering and are being educationally and economically disadvantaged by the lack of affordable internet in their communities. The Student Internet Equity Coalition will not solve the problem of a lack of infrastructure in rural communities. But, what it will do for families with a middle or high school student - is make the internet and a computer free for the lowest of income families, provide a subsidy for those earning up to 400% of the federal poverty line, and give a significant “Student Rate” discount to families who have a middle or high school student, but do not qualify for a government subsidy.
The plight of rural student and the lack of access to the internet is heartbreaking. However, what the numbers tell us is that in terms of sheer numbers—this is an urban affordability problem. There are 17 million K-12 students in this country without the internet and/or a computer. 82% of these disconnected students live in metropolitan areas.
Aaron: I’m sure implementing the strategy for this amazing initiative had to timely. Donna, what is your ultimate goal for Student Internet Equity Coalition? What is your dream for it?
Donna: My dream is that this time next year, every single middle and high school student goes to school and is given the opportunity to get the internet and a computer at home at a price their family can afford, at broadband speeds that are sufficient for their needs, and that the terms and conditions of service allow that student to stay connected to the internet for the duration of their middle or high school career. My dream is to be a small piece in the puzzle that brings digital, educational, and economic equality to all young people.
Aaron: Would you like to add anything in closing?
Donna: I would like to add that I love that this article is appearing in this magazine. I have worked for many years on “raising my consciousness”. As this process has unfolded for me, my goal and my focus has been on understanding and acting on the belief that we are all interconnected. I am my brother’s keeper is the way, the truth, and the light—because quite simply—I am my brother, sister, mother, father….
To raise one’s consciousness to me is to understand on a soul level that by helping you I help myself.
Aaron: Thank you!
Donna: Thank you.