Ansley Herring’s eyes lit up when she saw the new iPads given to Tom Thumb Academy as part of a Smart Rural CommunitySM Collaboration Challenge grant awarded to Star Communications.
Herring, like the nearly 90 other students at the Salemburg daycare, will now have the opportunity to use technology to learn and better prepare for kindergarten.
Star Communications is one of four companies across the United States awarded the grant as part of the Rural Broadband Association’s initiative to highlight efforts that make rural communities vibrant places to live and do business.
“With today’s rapid technological advancements, the need to educate our children sooner is growing,” Jeff Nethercutt, Star Communications general manager, said. “In the local city school system, children as early as kindergarten and first grade are being introduced to computer labs with coding opportunities and literacy programs.”
Star Communications plans to utilize the grant to support the implementation of digital literacy and interactive learning programs for pre-K students at Tom Thumb Academy.
The goal of the NTCA Smart Rural Community initiative is to foster the development of smart communities throughout rural America and Canada by encouraging innovative implementation of broadband solutions and access to next-generation applications for distance learning, telehealth services, public safety and security. Smart Rural Community provides educational programming, matching grant resources and an award program to recognize top-performing communities.
The Collaboration Challenge grants promote development of broadband-enabled solutions for communities and support collaborative efforts in economic development, education, energy, health care and public safety.
According to Donna Bullard, revenue manager with Star, Tom Thumb’s pre-kindergarten students did not have access to devices such as the iPad, computer or tablet to explore technology. After collaborating within the company and talking about different areas the company could help, the decision was made to apply for the grant and provide nine Apple iPads for interactive learning.
In partnering with Tom Thumb, Star is providing 23 percent of the project’s cost by donating the necessary labor and cable. Brenda Dudley, director of the facility, has committed to purchasing programs for learning.
“We will be able to use programs like Starfall, ABCmouse.com and Reading Eggs to get our kids better prepared for kindergarten,” Dudley said. “I truly appreciate what Star has done.”
Dudley said the iPads will be used in the classrooms for those kids age two and older and teachers will be able to have one-on-one instruction with their students.
“We believe this grant will afford Tom Thumb Academy the resources needed to implement an interactive learning environment,” Nethercutt said. “Within this environment, children will develop a love for learning at an early age, gain essential learning skills that will last a lifetime and build an educational foundation before entering the school environment.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.