Orange Unified partners with Verizon to bring free technology to underserved middle school students

Two middle schools in the Orange Unified School District will soon benefit from a nationwide tech education program set to provide free devices, internet access, and innovative learning programs to under-resourced students.

In partnership with Digital Promise, Portola and Yorba middle schools are the first in Orange County to join the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) grant program. The program — which launched in 2012 — equips every student and teacher at select middle and high schools with a device and data plan, and provides students without reliable home internet access with a mobile hotspot. The initiative currently serves nearly 500 schools nationwide, equipping more than 200,000 students with technology resources.

Orange USD/Verizon partnership
Students at Yorba Middle School in the Orange Unified School District received LTE-enabled Chromebooks as part of a new partnership with the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program.

To celebrate the new program, the district hosted a kick-off “Tech Carnival” at Yorba Middle School on Sept. 1, and a similar event at Portola Middle School on Sept. 2, where students received their devices as well as a VILS carrying case. During the event, students also participated in tech-related activities such as a Sphero Ball station, relaxation station, dance station and more.

Over the course of the two-day event a total of 1,200 Chromebooks with built-in LTE were provided to students. Yorba Middle School Principal Sandra Preciado-Martin says that teachers will also receive 180 minutes per trimester of teacher training, support, and the opportunity to engage in a unique, immersive curriculum to leverage technology in their classrooms.

“The grant application process was a labor of love and a true collaboration between school-site leadership and the district,” said Preciado-Martin. “With this grant we are able to give our students increased access to curriculum, reliable internet access at home and — as an added bonus — our teachers are given the support they need with a built-in Verizon Innovative Learning Schools coach.”

According to the district, both Yorba and Portola middle schools have hired a full-time coach dedicated to providing teachers with support to leverage technology in the classroom. Funded as part of the grant, the school-based coaches help provide professional learning and identify appropriate resources and opportunities to support teachers at varied levels of readiness.

To learn more about the VILS grant program, schools can visit the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools website.