AT&T Employees make a personal commitment to bridging the Digital Divide in our communities

There are few things our modern era expects more than fast internet connections, easy access to our networks and immediate options for communicating where we want to, when we want to. For so many, transitioning to working and educating from home in 2020 and beyond were only possible because of access to these services we so often take for granted.

To begin to understand the very real digital divide facing so many households, consider your own experience without the internet – how would you check your social feeds, video chat with your family, work from your living room – and so much more importantly, how would your children participate in remote learning? The importance of access to education cannot be underestimated.

Together we make the big things possible

We’ve made a $2 billion dollar commitment to help bridge the digital divide in our communities. As part of that commitment, we’re opening AT&T Connected Learning Centers across the country – a project full of the passion of the many people that came together to make it a reality. The common thread – when faced with the digital divide and a call to action from AT&T executives, they all stepped up to put their unique skills to work.

Barbara Theulen, a Lead Sourcing Manager by title, sees the big picture and knows one of the key components of her job is to “be a connector.” Connecting AT&T with key partners like Dell Technologies and Overland-Tandberg to bring to life the vision of new equipment in the hands of the people who need it most in addition to onsite configuration of the technology and the AT&T network to support consistent, fast connectivity. “The cool factor, is this is just a normal part of my job, to be able to work on something that is going to impact other people’s lives. What really got me as far as the human side of it, was really understanding what the impact is,” she noted.
Hearing the call was the first step for Thomas Rester, who said, “we had this opportunity to see what it’s all about, and all the people that were involved with it and the impact you knew it would have. From the WIFI perspective, we could get this done and help the kids that were there and are using it. After that call, it wasn’t a question of do you want to be involved, it was how CAN we be a part of this.” As a Sr. Specialist – Technical Project Manager, Thomas understands what it takes to connect people to technology and bridging the gap. “You see people starting to use it and know that if they can stay connected, they can have the ability to stay ahead of the curve with their schoolwork, it leads to more opportunity for them and impacts families.”
Connecting under privileged communities with service, getting more information about the digital divide and seeing the big plans AT&T had for taking on these challenges, got Scott Strickland not only interested, but ready to say, what can I do? “The first one we did at Family Gateway (Dallas) was a chance to be onsite, to actually see the people, the kids and families that were coming into the Gateway center and see how much it meant to them. It’s a safe place to come, and just providing the internet and these new computers to them at this location, where they safely can use it for schoolwork or even for getting jobs, for us was very rewarding. To see the kids there and how excited they were that it was coming to them was a great feeling.” Scott speaks from experience as an Area Manager – Technical Project/Program Manager.
With nearly 25 years on the job, Dwight Styles, has been a part of the transition from telephony to data and has managed to change with the times as a Systems Technician. “It warmed my heart to know we were making a difference for these kids, for these families. The whole project was very exciting.” But he was also quick to note that doing this work is part of the job. Every customer, every service provided is a point of pride and Dwight has seen firsthand the ways these connections make a difference in people’s lives.

As AT&T takes steps to help underserved communities, and specifically students and families, this launch is the first of more than 20 Connected Learning Centers planned across the country. We are also expanding free-device programs and positively impacting available access to digital literacy tools to help people impacted by the digital divide.

Check out more on how we’re breaking through the digital divide: