Last week, a woman posted a photo of two young girls sitting on the curb of a Taco Bell parking lot, hunched over laptops in Salinas, California. The students were positioned near the fast-food restaurant to use its WiFi for remote classes because they didn’t have internet access at home. The photo went viral and brought new life to the conversation about students lacking tools to succeed in remote instruction.
This week, social media users rallied to raise over $100,000 for the pair’s family in an online fundraiser.
The photo was originally posted by Instagram user @ms_mamie89. She shared the photo, which was taken by her mom, and called for the community to help.
She wrote, “What can we do as a community to pull together for students who need something as simple as WiFi in order to succeed? Please share and tag people in our community who can help.”
Photo Sparks Change
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My mom sent me this picture today. These 2 young girls were looking for a place with WiFi to do their school work 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 in order to succeed? Please share and tag people in our community who can help. UPDATE: THE GIRLS WERE IDENTIFIED BY THEIR SCHOOL DISTRICT AND GIVEN HOTSPOTS! I’M SURE THERE ARE OTHER CHILDREN IN NEED, I AM HOPING THEY ALL GET THE TOOLS THEY NEED! IF LOCAL BUSINESSES WOULD LIKE TO DONATE THEIR SPACE TO SET UP OUTDOOR INTERNET CAFES, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I WOULD LOVE TO HELP RALLY UP SUPPLIES AND MAN POWER! I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO REACH OUT TO YOUR OWN COMMUNITIES TO HELP STUDENTS IN YOUR AREA PLEASE CHECK OUT THE UPDATE ON THE FALSE POLICE ALLEGATIONS MADE BY A REPOSTER OF THIS PICTURE! DO HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU DONATE TO ANYONE. UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS QUESTIONABLE BEHAVIOR. HOPING THAT THOSE HELPING HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS. 😞 Although I appreciate it, please don’t follow my page. It’s only public for now because of this picture but I will be erasing all new followers. #freewifi #salinas #equityineducation #socialinjustice #socialinequality #educationmatters #wififorall #educationforall #salinascalifornia #digitaldivide #cometogether #communitylove #ittakesavillage #saveourkids #dosomething
According to a study from Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group, around 15 to 16 million K-12 public school students in the US live in homes the lack adequate internet connection or the necessary digital devices.
CNN reports that the Salinas City Elementary District immediately identified the students when the photo went viral. Due to privacy concerns, the district didn’t release the student or family names to the public. The district did, however, provide the family a hotspot for their home.
Family “Filled With Hope”
Jackie Lopez started a GoFundMe for the family. In the campaign description, Lopez identified the girl’s mother by her first name, Juana. She described Juana as a hardworking, single mother of three girls. When she learned that Juana and the girls were facing eviction, she began the GoFundMe.
Lopez also shared that she was sent a Cease and Desist letter from the Salinas City School District for using the Taco Bell WiFi photo of the students in the fundraiser. According to the letter, the photo’s presence created the presumption that the fundraiser was associated with the district. She was told to remove the photo and clarify that the fundraiser was not affiliated with the district. Lopez removed the photo and provided clarification in an update on the family’s situation.
To date, the GoFundMe has raised over $140,000 for the family. Lopez shared that the family is “grateful and filled with so much hope for tomorrow and their future.” With the help of Lopez, they found a local accountant to help manage their financial situation.