Cornerstone’s three middle schools – Adams-Young Middle School, Jefferson-Douglass Academy, and Washington-Parks Academy, are the first Detroit schools – and only the second school network in the State of Michigan – to be accepted into the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program since it began 10 years ago. The value of the more than 1,000 internet-enabled devices that the students and teachers received, along with extensive training and technology coaches, is nearly $7 million.

Closing the Digital Divide

VILS is Verizon’s award-winning educational initiative which addresses barriers to digital inclusion and helps drive equity within education for some of the most vulnerable populations across the county. In partnership with Digital Promise, the program works side-by-side with schools and districts to provide free technology devices, access to the internet and innovative STEM learning programs, giving students in under-resourced schools the technology, education and opportunity they deserve. Being part of the program keeps students connected, helping to facilitate learning wherever it’s taking place.

“The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program teaches students in new and engaging ways aligned with the skills and proficiencies they will need to pursue careers that will set them up for success in the digital world,” said Brianna Ellison, director, Verizon State Government Affairs. “We are thrilled that Cornerstone Schools have been selected to join this innovative initiative.

More than Devices

In addition to reliable access for every student and teacher, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools also equips each school with a technology coach and provides robust professional development support for teachers to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. Teachers in the program have reported that the initiative allows for more individualized instruction, helps them explore new ways of teaching, and elevates student engagement.

“The technology that these kids are getting will enable them to be able to find information on all subjects, explore the world, enlighten themselves and actually be able to expand the scope of what they think is possible,” said Board Chair Reverend Horace Sheffield. “I’m a firm believer that the more our kids are exposed to, the more possibilities they have.”

Students Making It Happen

Students at all three middle schools were an integral part of the application process. When Digital Promise visited the schools they heard from students about the challenges they face and what this program would mean for them. For many, this program can mean the difference between success and failure. “I’m particularly proud that our students  helped get us here,” said Allysia Davis, principal of Adams-Young Middle School. “They were an important part of the application process, sharing their stories about challenges they face without adequate access to technology and reliable internet service. They shared their hopes for the opportunities that being part of this program would provide them.”

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