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Bridging the Digital Divide during COVID-19

Allen Temple AME Church-Atlanta WiFi Safe Space

“COVID-19 has changed how we all meet on Sunday morning but not how Allen Temple A.M.E. Church-Atlanta serves our community,” affirms pastor, the Rev. Dr. Susan H. Buckson. Following CDC guidelines, Allen Temple opened on September 14, 2020, to support student learning with a simple combination of volunteers, internet access, and one six-foot table per student. We hosted students Monday-Friday from 8 AM-4 PM, providing breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The reality is that many of our school-aged children and college students do not have the same ability to function freely in the digital age as many of the school districts across the country stopped in-person instruction and adopted virtual learning. Now both teachers and students find themselves having to navigate multiple devices and roles at home, particularly for parents, who either now work from home or who had to return to their place of employment. “[Allen Temple] created a village that I call my extended family,” says parent Ms. Brittany Ethridge. “I have been blessed to continue to provide for my family by going to work because I am comfortable knowing my kids are in a small group getting their school work completed. I am grateful to have found this “safe space” for my kids.” Allen Temple-Atlanta stepped in to help parents and students return to a new normal in education with WiFi Safe Space.

We were not sure how the community would receive the program. For the first two days of operation, we did not have students, but the word spread. WiFi Parent, Ms. Shawnika Anderson Clemmons, recalls that she sent her oldest daughter first. “My daughter had such an amazing time that she convinced her younger sister to attend. They both loved the program so much that they talked to their friends about it. Now six of my neighbors’ children attend. WiFi Safe Space has been “a literal Godsend for my family and those in my community.” We host on average ten-twelve students daily with the capacity of twenty students.

Pico Interactive Goblin

Allen Temple-Atlanta members – Ms. Sallie Sanders and Mr. Julian K. Smith, Jr. – spearheaded a partnership with Pico Interactive. This global tech company develops innovative virtual reality (VR) and enterprise solutions. Pico donated 20 VR headsets and $10,000 to support next-generation learning enrichment for students. Each child now has access to a wealth of interactive global travel, animation, and robotics challenges. The next steps include hosting VR design classes to develop afro-centered, Bible-based VR curriculum modules and to teach students how to create 3D programming.

Allen Temple-Atlanta also received a $20,000 grant from the United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta from the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund for general operating support to provide WiFi Safe Space for children to access virtual learning. Supporting partners also included the J.K. Smith, Sr. Foundation, and the Allen Temple Lay Organization.

Detoncia "Chef D" Wilkerson

Thank you to Allen Temple volunteers: Ms. Detoncia Wilkerson, Ms. Ambe K. Comeaux, Mr. Julian H. Smith, Sis. Jackie Terrell, Sis. Darnetta Simalton, Mr. Anwar Heard, Mr. Paul Harris, Mrs. Cynthia Cody, Mr. Raymond Cody, and Ms. Esteller Phillips.

“We are not yet sure if local schools will open for the Sprint Semester, says Dr. Buckson, “but we do know that Allen Temple will be there to support students, teachers, and parents in our community.”


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