ALAMO, Texas – Arise Adelante has won praise for helping colonia families navigate the digital divide during the coronavirus-induced school shutdown.

The community group connected with the College Scholarship Leadership Access Program, a nonprofit which hosts college access workshops at local high schools and provides near-peer mentorship for graduating students. 

CSLAP first had to give technical training to the ARISE leadership. After that nonprofit provided one-on-one mentorship over the phone, so that colonia families could understand what programs like Google classroom were all about. 

Aurelio M. Montemayor

“Our mentors are providing technical support to families who simply want their children to complete their assignments and continue their education uninterrupted, said CSLAP founder Thomas Ray Garcia.

The Intercultural Development Research Association, based in San Antonio, asked CSLAP if it could help Arise.

“IDRA’s concern is the education of those children, most schools right now have lost a fourth of their kids. They have no idea if they are connecting or what they are doing. Some never picked up their tablet they were going to use. Some have the tablet but they have no internet connection,” said Aurelio M. Montemayor, family engagement coordinator at IDRA.

“ARISE was surveying the different colonias but even though Spectrum was giving two free months that was only for specific areas. There was one family that was just across the street from where they were giving free Spectrum for two months but they could not get internet access.”

Montemayor praised Arise Adelante and CSLAP for providing help to colonia families.

“These are the families that get hurt the easiest, they have the greatest need and we have never seen so graphically the digital divide is,” he said.

Montemayor also thanked CSLAP for helping Arise adapt its summer education program. Every June, local high school students give four weeks of their time to ARISE to help younger members of the community. If social distancing regulations prevent this program from functioning normally this summer, the students may instead help young children digitally.

“It is a fabulous summer program. A deep commitment to the community is brought out in the young people,” Montemayor said.

“But, this is the first summer they are not going to be able to play games with them in their yard, they are going to have to figure out how they are going to support these children through technology.”

Editor’s Note: The Zoom conversation below features Lourdes Flores and Virginia Santana of Arise Adelante discussing the digital divide in the colonias their nonprofit services.

Editor’s Note: The slideshow at the top of this page features some of the students that have graduated from Arise Adelante’s summer education program. The group took a caravan of vehicles around Little Mexico earlier this week to thank the students.

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a two-part story about how the IDRA-CSLAP-Arise Adelante collaboration is addressing the digital divide in colonias in the Rio Grande Valley. Part Two will feature the analysis of CSLAP’s Thomas Ray Garcia.

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