by Melissa Johns, Executive Vice President, and Christine Salinas, Manager of Grants and Communications

Nicole is a former foster youth who attends San Jose City College and has big dreams for herself. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, she completed her course assignments in the computer lab at her apartment complex. But when shelter-in-place forced her complex to shut down the lab, Nicole ran into a significant problem: How would she do her work without access to a computer?

A resilient and resourceful woman, Nicole immediately downloaded Zoom and Google Docs to her phone and tried to complete her assignments using the only device she had. But she quickly learned her phone’s shortfalls. For example, when her professors shared their screens during an online lecture, she could barely see the presentations on her tiny phone screen. “Then my professors started requiring that we submit our assignments as PDFs, and I figured out that you can’t make a PDF using the Google Docs app on the phone,” Nicole remembers. “The last straw was when one of my classes required a 5-page essay, and I thought, ‘How am I supposed to do that on my phone?’”

Like Nicole, Serena is another Pivotal scholar who didn’t have a laptop when shelter-in-place began. She faces an added challenge because she has a visual impairment and has been diagnosed as partially blind. In order for Serena to read on-screen content, whatever computer she uses must be adapted for her visual challenges and also host specific software. Without a laptop she can use at home, Serena cannot complete her schoolwork or keep up with the assignments that are part of her Associate’s Degree Program in Early Childhood Education Program at San Jose City College. Serena hopes one day to own her own daycare and specialize in working with children who, like her, also have physical disabilities.

When so many other challenges already stand in the way of foster youth achieving their college dreams, we can’t afford to let technology be yet another barrier. Thanks to support from Google and Acer, and from our Emergency Assistance Fund donors, Pivotal is distributing laptops to the students who need them. The gratitude and relief they feel illustrate just how important it is to fill this basic need. One of our laptop recipients expressed her excitement in this note to her coach: “OMG, my laptop just arrived in the mail! I am so happy right now and thankful. Can you please let everyone know they have truly blessed me with this computer? I’m writing three different essays and creating a Powerpoint, so this is perfect timing! Thank you!”

Pivotal will continue to source laptops and get our students the resources they need to stay in school and reach their academic and employment goals. If you or your company would like to help us give laptops to hard-working foster youth in our community, please reach out to us or consider making a donation to our Emergency Assistance Fund.