Learning online has been a struggle for many Calgary families who don’t have the money for computers or internet access.
Now, a Calgary high school student is doing his part to try to reduce that digital divide.
Jayce Farris feels fortunate that he always had internet access and a computer when the pandemic forced his high school classes to go online. But he knows not all students are that lucky.
“It’s really eye-opening to realize there are people in our city that are in that kind of need, and I think it’s important for all of us to come together to help out,” Farris said on Sunday.
“I saw there was a way I could help, and I realized there was a massive need for it.”
The Grade 12 student at All Saints High School started a fundraising campaign, selling bags of locally roasted coffee with a portion of the proceeds going to the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation to help meet the growing need for technology during the pandemic.
The donations will then be matched up to 50 per cent by Shaw Birdies for Kids presented by AltaLink.
“I think it should be a concern of everybody, whatever school you are in, that the kids are well-supported,” said CCEF executive director Janet Lymer.
CCEF raises funds for students in the Calgary Catholic School District, replacing casino fundraising that was forced to stop in 2008 because it’s considered a social injustice in the Catholic faith.
It has left Catholic schools able to raise far less money for things like technology than their Calgary Board of Education counterparts.
“From a fundraising perspective, there’s definitely inequity happening,” Lymer said.
She said the pandemic has resulted in a greater need for technology as fundraising becomes more challenging.
“The mental stress that these kids are going through and then compounded by the fact they are not able to learn at the same rate as their peers — that’s a social injustice. I see it as an inequity in education if the kids can’t get access to technology to learn. We are putting them behind the eight ball,” Lymer said.
Lymer said she would like to see the community as a whole step up more.
“We see appeals all the time for natural disasters. This is one,” Lymer said.
“We are relying on high school students to learn off their cellphones. How is that conducive to learning? I think we, as a society, have a responsibility to ensure we are not failing our youth.”
In December, the CCEF awarded over $75,000 in grant funding that helped purchase items like Chromebooks but the organization had to turn down $175,000 in school requests.
The CCEF received over $250,000 in requests from 50 of the 118 schools in the CCSD in 2020.
Over $160,000 of this was for technology, emphasizing Chromebooks and tablets — items that are crucial for students who were directed to online learning, said Lymer.