HCISD partners with Sprint to give hundreds of smart phones

Cano Freshman Academy student Javier Marin takes his phone after signing for it yesterday at the HCISD Board Room Wednesday. By Maricela Rodriguez, Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN —Students who do not have Internet access at home now will not have to worry about that.

The Harlingen school district has been awarded a $1 million Sprint grant that donates smart phones with service ready for students to use.

In an event last night at the HCISD Administration Boardroom, 370 students were handed their new smart phone with hotspot and 3 gigabytes of free high speed data services to use.

According to Dr. Jessica Hrushka, Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Special Projects, when the grant was approved it promised to donate $1 million in devices with service for a period of five years. This is the third consecutive year they have donated phones to the school district.

The requirements are for children to be in the ninth through 12th grade spectrum and they must not have Internet access at home.

“The goal is to close the homework gap. The gap is when a kiddo has to do research for homework but when they do not have Internet at home it becomes a gap in between opportunities for those that do and those that don’t,” Hrushka said.

“ Sprint wants to provide reliable Internet service so they can do their homework after they leave school,” she said.

She said they have been passing out about 300 devices each year to students in the district. Participants come from Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy, Harlingen High School, Harlingen South, Harlingen School of Health Professions and Harlingen Early College High School.

“Students get to keep the phone after they graduate but the service will no longer be available,” Hrushka said.

According to her, the cell phones will come with a filter to avoid content not appropriate for them.

“We are not worried about the use of the cell phones in the classroom because we are trying to get them to use them for activities. Usually all one would do is call or text but we want to change the dynamics,” she said.

Maria Mancilla, 48, waited in her seat while her son who is a ninth grader at Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy said she felt very grateful for her son getting a smart phone.

“I was never able to buy him one and I feel about that but I am glad they are doing this for those who need it,” she said.

“I will make sure he uses it for school purposes. I am going to monitor him and make sure of that. I had never seen this happen before. I have five kids and this is the first time I have witnessed it,” she said.

ecavazos@valleystar.com