Newest VISIONS Participants Receive Laptops

During a heavy rain shower, PCC High School VISIONS Coordinator Jim Shallow hands a fully-refurbished laptop donated by Altice USA and the Kramden Institute to a new VISIONS participant. VISIONS staff organized a socially-distanced pickup process for the laptops to prevent spread of COVID-19.

WINTERVILLE—For the second straight year, the Pitt Community College VISIONS program has provided laptops to new participants, thanks to the generosity of a communications company and a charitable organization intent on bridging the digital divide.

Each year, VISIONS brings a new group of Pitt County high school juniors into the program to offer them support and direction needed to receive diplomas and move into higher education. For the past two years, Altice USA has partnered with Durham’s Kramden Institute to provide those newcomers with their very own computers.

“Many students in our program don’t have access to funds to purchase a new laptop or are having to use technology borrowed from the schools, which has to be returned at the end of the year,” said PCC High School VISIONS Coordinator Katelynn Speas. “These laptops are given to the students to keep for life, bringing them one step closer to being successful in the classroom and one step closer to high school graduation and the transition to college.”

Speas said the 80 fully-refurbished laptops distributed to VISIONS students this month removes a technology barrier that has only become more significant since the coronavirus spread across the nation one year ago.

“Prior to COVID-19, students were able to turn in assignments in the classroom and use technology in their respective high school media centers,” she said. “However, due to the nature of the pandemic and the virtual learning layout, many students struggled to complete their assignments at home, because everything was required to be turned in through the online learning platform, Canvas.”

Speas said with their new laptops, VISIONS students can access highspeed internet for $15 per month through Altice USA. She said it allows them to complete classroom assignments virtually and participate in school during weeks they do not meet for classes in person.

“These laptops allow our students to have their own means of virtually attending seminars through Zoom and avoid having to navigate the process of sharing technology within their homes or using phones that can easily drop a Wi-Fi signal,” Speas said. She added that the computers donated last year made a meaningful impact on students, who are now seniors preparing for graduation this spring.

“The reactions we received from students and parents were overwhelming,” she said. “They were extremely thankful for the partnership between the college, Altice USA and Kramden Institute and that we had thought enough of them and their future academic success that we found a way to meet one of their greatest technology needs. I’ve heard from a number of students who have tried saving money for a laptop, and now that money can go toward helping their family or help them pay for gas.”

Started in 2004, VISIONS is the product of a partnership between the PCC Foundation, Pitt County Schools and the Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation. Thus far, the program has helped more than 1,000 local students complete high school and move into higher education and/or the local workforce.