Students at Conrad High School open devices from Sprint, which the company hopes will help close the “homework gap” between lower-income families without internet connections to those with easier access.

Students at Conrad High School, which serves the Vickery Meadow area in Northeast Dallas, collectively received some 250 smartphones and tablets. It was part of an effort by Sprint to distribute one million such pieces of technology, which research shows can help underprivileged youths become better students. Conrad High School was one of just 11 schools selected for the program‘s pilot year, and the only Texas school.

Elena Nava stood in the hallway of Dr. Emmett J. Conrad High School Friday, nervously waiting her turn in line. She was one of 250 students slated to receive a free smartphone, tablet or hotspot to help with homework, courtesy of Sprint. Conrad students in the Global Collegiate Academy qualified, as well as refugee students and kids in English as a Second Language (ESL).

“I will choose a tablet,” Nava says in broken English,” and use it to translate what lessons and teachers say.”

Nava, born in Guerrero, Mexico, said she has hopes of studying biology at UTD.

“I will use it to write papers and review my class notes and do homework. I will also watch videos when I am learning new things and doing class projects.”

Dienfait Nshiniye agreed.

“I also will ask for a tablet,” said the lanky boy, born in Rwanda. “I will use it to take and review my notes.”

Dawt Par, born in Myanmar and living in America just 7 months, expects her new tablet to have an immediate impact.

“I think my grades will go up,” Par says. “I’m very excited. I will use it to study because I have a small phone, and I think a tablet can help me study history.”

“There are 5 million students in the U.S. who are unable to do their schoolwork because they just don’t have access to WiFi,” said Sprint’s Carrie Schuyler. “They are having to go to Starbuck’s, McDonald’s and other places to facilitate that, so Sprint stood up and realized that placing technology in the hands of our students has unlimited possibilities for them. This is part of our trial program, and we’ll be facilitating 250 students today.”

“It’s very exciting for us to partner with these schools,” Schuyler continues.  “It’s very exciting to see the sunshine on the students’ faces that moment when they know they’re going to be able to go home and do their school work from their home instead of, at night, having to go find another place. Sprint wants to be a partner with our community, and this is a way to give back.”

Conrad was selected after an application process. When the program rolls out nationwide this year, any school can go online to to apply online.

Asked if Sprint anticipates students becoming lifelong customers, Schuyler laughs, “We would hope so. We’re just happy we can support them today.”

And what keeps kids from messing around with devices and using them in ways they shouldn’t?

“Parents have been informed and there are parental controls, but for all intents and purposes, these are their devices. They are also able to share the device with their siblings to use at home, too, so it can be a game-changer for an entire family.”

“These kids remind me of that lady in that IKEA commercial who says, ‘Start the car!” jokes Shaundra Jones, Conrad’s Collegiate Academy office manager. “They can’t believe they are really walking away with this Sprint bag. They are so happy and so grateful.”

Ninth grader Ana Romero answers questions shyly, but she sticks out her chin and says she’s good at math. She’ll use her new phone for research school work, and she’ll share it with her siblings – all born in Mexico. She plans to go to college, she says, though she hasn’t decided which one.

Game-changer, indeed.

Advocate photographer Danny Fulgencio attended the event last Friday, to document the students accepting the gifts and learning how to put them to use.

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