Sprint Foundation donates smartphones to PUHSD students

Phoenix Union High School District students laugh in the bleachers during the Sprint Foundation's 1 Million Campaign event. (Rebecca Spiess/DD)

The Sprint Foundation donated new smartphones and hotspot devices to 5,400 students in the Phoenix Union High School District Wednesday morning as a part of their 1 Million campaign.

The campaign was started to help students bridge the “homework gap,” a term referring to students being unable to complete their homework due to poor wifi connection.

“We’re primarily a low-income school district,” PUHSD Communications Director Craig Pletenik explained. “A lot of our kids don’t have internet at home.”

With a population of 80 percent low-income students and 95 percent minority students, PUHSD has many students who may lack internet and can benefit from the program.

The event was held at Central High School’s north gym, where about 500 student ambassadors from 17 different schools gathered to kick off the campaign. The student representatives from across the district received their devices and hotspots at the event.

PUHSD Superintendent Chad Getson said this event helps bridge the lack of opportunity some district students face.

“Our students don’t lack ability. Our students don’t lack intelligence,” Getson said in his speech. “But often our students lack resources and lack opportunity.”

Bioscience High School freshman Elena Rangel was one of the students who received a device.

“I go to Starbucks every day after school to do my homework,” Rangel said.

When asked about her home internet connection she said two gigabytes just isn’t enough.

Another student, Isaiah Ordonez from Central High School, was hand-picked for the program by his principal and two other mentors.

“A lot of my family does come over,” he said. “Sometimes I’m trying to do homework but all of the wifi’s being used.”

Students receiving the devices will have access to 3GB of high-speed data per month for their entire high school careers. The program has a duration of five years, so every year a new group of freshman will receive 5,000-6,000 devices, Pletenik said.

“It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare,” Pletenik said. “Today is just kind of a show. On the campuses, that’s where the real work of distribution is happening.”

Mayor Greg Stanton was also at the event, officially proclaiming the day as “Sprint 1 Million Project Day” for the city of Phoenix in his speech.

“Let’s be honest, making sure that every student has the tools and resources they need to reach their dreams, is not the sole responsibility of our schools,” Stanton told the students. “We all have a role to play, including the mayor and the city of Phoenix.”

Contact the reporter at Rebecca.Spiess@asu.edu.