LANSING, Mich. — Many college students are supposed to be going back to school behind a screen, but they don't have the essential tools to get by like laptops or the internet and as Amanda Brandeis reports, supply chains are strained as schools scramble to secure more devices.
The pathway to higher education has never been without barriers.but trying to break through them during a pandemic can crack an already fragile foundation.
Maria Salvador, first generation college student “I’m doing everything for my family so they feel proud of me and i can keep going forward and get a good job so i don’t end up in the fields.”
While long hours can reap little reward for migrant farmworkers, many work in hopes to pass down a better life for their children.
Born in the central coast of California, Maria’s parents came here from Oaxaca, Mexico. “They always tell me we have to keep studying, we have to keep learning and keep growing so that we can get a good job so that we don’t suffer the way they suffered.” But that studying made more difficult by the lack of access to a laptop.
“It was always hard because since I would use my mom’s cell phone sometimes she would take it with her and sometimes I couldn’t do my homework” and when the pandemic derailed her final months of high school, Maria and her sister worked in the fields to help their family.
Sonya Zapien Torres, Tequio youth coordinator shared that “a lot of our students with the whole pandemic came a lot of financial hardships for families.” Sonya works to get these students from the fields to college. She “helps them navigate this system because a lot of them are first-generation, they may not understand what are the requirements they get to graduate high school, what classes do i need to take.”
She says virtual learning has made the process a lot harder. “I would definitely want to be on campus.” A week after classes began the organization Mixteco was able to secure Maria a laptop. But it’s an issue not unique to just her.
Sonya explained “our students are not only falling behind but then they’re getting graded for not showing up to virtual classes.”
Maria’s school, Oxnard College, found 20% of its students don’t have access to internet, computers, or basic software programs. They serve a population that’s 60% of first generation students.
Despite challenges, they’ve been able to fulfill every laptop request.sonya 9:29 “they see the struggles of their families, ideally, something working in the field is not something they want to do. They know from personal experience the hard labor of working in the fields, so they want to and they aspire to grow from that.”
While the job of advocates has grown more complicated, their efforts matter more now than ever before.
Around the country, the laptop supply chain is struggling to keep up with the boom in demand . Research company NPD group reports laptop sales grew 50% this summer. Schools and families are dealing with shipping delays, limited selections and higher-than-usual technology costs.
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