An alarming photo of two little girls using Taco Bell's WiFi to do schoolwork goes viral—people raise more than $146,000 to help them.
When the pandemic came, schools closed their doors, and students had to finish their school year online.
As kids return to school, they are yet again to use online learning to resume most of their studies.
While this is no issue for kids who have easy access to a computer and a strong WiFi connection, thousands are not so fortunate.
Future Ready journal recently published a report highlighting millions of kids across the country lack the tech required for their education.
According to the analysis, more than 16.9 million kids in the US don't have access to high-speed internet at home. Additionally, 7.3 million children can't afford to have a desktop, laptop or tablet.
As a result, attending classes online is nearly impossible for these kids. This creates the 'digital divide.'
That means students from wealthy families have the resources to keep up with their studies. But those from low-income earning families are at risk of falling behind.
This 'digital divide' clearly surfaced just recently when a photo of two young girls in Salinas, California, sitting outside a Taco Bell doing schoolwork circulated online.
In the Photo, the Girls are Sitting outside in the Parking Lot, Studying
Though their faces are obscured, they are both sitting on the pavement, hunched over their laptops and trying to get access to their remote learning.
The photo, which highlights the disadvantages many low-income families face, quickly went viral.
Sharing the photo, one social media user said:
"These two young girls were looking for a place with WiFi to do their schoolwork. So, they sat near Taco Bell to connect to the free WiFi."
"A lot of us don't have to worry about having a proper WiFi connection or a quiet place to work from home."
"Every student from preschool through college should have free access to reliable WiFi, especially now."
"What can we do as a community to pull together for students who need something as simple as WiFi to succeed?"
"Please share and tag people in our community who can help."
California Senate President Kevin de Leon also posted the photo on Twitter, writing:
"Two students sit outside a Taco Bell to use WiFi so they can 'go to school' online."
"This is California, home to Silicon Valley…but where the digital divide is as deep as ever. Where 40% of all Latinos don't have internet access. This generation deserves better."
The Digital Divide is Real
Lack of a strong internet connection had existed long before COVID-19 came. And it affects students of immigrants, color, low-income families and families living in rural areas.
As per reports, one in three Latino, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native families don't have high-speed internet at home.
In addition, one in three families who earn less than $50,000 per year also don't have reliable internet.
A GoFundMe Page to Help the Two Salinas Girls
Jackie Lopez, a Salinas resident, wanted to do something to help the girls when she saw the heartbreaking photo.
She eventually connected with their mother, Juana, who she said is a migrant worker.
Lopez also learned that the girls were sharing a bedroom with their mom and one other sister at the time after they faced eviction.
So, Lopez created a GoFundMe page to help the family, and it has raised more than $146,000.
"All children deserve a happy place to live, and because of their dedication, these little girls deserve a safe space to learn."
"We appreciate every single one of you for helping to make that happen."
The girls are now living in a new home with a better internet connection, thanks to the outpouring of support from the community.
The Salinas City Elementary School District also offered the family basic and other essential products.