JERSEY CITY, NJ - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today joined Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop for the launch of JerseyOn, a new non-profit aimed at helping students in low income areas achieve their greatest educational potential by providing affordable broadband access in their homes. JerseyOn announced its initiative at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, where more than half of students' families do not have internet access at home.
"I learned early-on that our basic educational value should have nothing to do with how much money a student has and everything to do with fairness-fair access to all the information you need to reach your full potential, compete, get a good job, improve our economy, and build a better life for you and your families," said Sen. Menendez to a gathering of students and teachers.
Studies show more than a third of all Americans-including half of minorities-are unconnected at home. JerseyOn, affiliated with the national nonprofit EveryoneOn, is working to eliminate the digital, economic and academic divides by delivering access to high-speed, low-cost home internet, affordable computers and digital literacy training for the thousands of unconnected people in New Jersey.
Mayor Steven M. Fulop, today, thanked JerseyOn for their commitment to expand broadband connectivity for Jersey City school students and for students in other urban areas in New Jersey.
"We know that in order for our students to succeed they need access to the latest technology and information," said Mayor Fulop. "While the school district is able to provide internet access and laptops during the day, we realize many students do not have internet access at home. JerseyOn is providing a low cost solution to help meet this demand."
In partnership with Microsoft, JerseyOn provides low-cost, refurbished laptops, software and training to students. In Jersey City, they will be working with, among others, FreedomPop to provide a hotspot-like device that comes with a lifetime of 1GB of monthly data on the Sprint network for a one-time fee of $39.98. JerseyOn also offers connectivity through Mobile Beacon for $10 a month for unlimited data, plus $29.99 for the hotspot device. It also has relationships with Comcast's Internet Essentials program and Sprint Sparks.
"We can't afford to have to have two New Jerseys-one where students are connected to all the opportunity the internet has to offer and the other disconnected and living in a bygone era," said JerseyOn Chairman Josh Gottheimer. "We want all students across our state to have the opportunity to get connected, so that New Jersey can compete and win in the 21st century economy."
During the 2011-2012 school year, Lincoln High was awarded a three-year, $6.6 million U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grant (SIG) it used to integrate technology, provide laptops for every student and expand learning opportunities by incorporating online resources into classroom instruction. Lincoln High, according to administrators, has since experienced a significant rise in standardized test scores, cut its suspension rate in half, saw its graduation rate jump by 10% and expanded its advanced placement and honors course offerings by 50%. However, with 80% of the student body eligible for free or reduced lunches, many Lincoln High students cannot afford internet access at home, limiting their educational potential.
"For many of us it's easy to take technology access for granted because it is so present in our lives," said Jersey City Board of Education President Sangeeta Ranade. "Now technology is giving us the chance to extend learning in a meaningful way outside the classroom. This partnership will benefit families in immeasurable ways."