BOYNTON BEACH – Thanks to a generous matching gift from Harvey and Virginia Kimmel, the students at SouthTech Schools are starting the year out on a positive note. The Delray Beach residents are offering up to $100,000 dedicated toward providing the kids with the technology they need to succeed during the pandemic – and beyond.
The Kimmels have allocated the matching funds in $25,000 increments to be distributed as funds from the community are raised. SouthTech needs a total of 995 Chrome Books to achieve a one-to-one student to device ratio, according to SouthTech Academy Principal Eileen Turenne.
“The majority of middle school and high school students have been attending class virtually – and many of them are doing it with only a smartphone or an outdated tablet,” Turenne says.
Ethan, a high school junior, is enrolled in SouthTech’s IT Academy. “There were a few months at the beginning of COVID when all of the lockdowns started, I had to borrow a computer from my parents who were also working from home and also needed it. It was definitely a struggle,” he says. These days he is working on an old computer he borrowed from a friend. “I use it every day for every class. It’s, it’s where I do all of my work.”
According to the Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of parents say that their kids can’t complete their schoolwork because they don’t have access to a computer at home. “These concerns are especially prevalent among parents with lower incomes.1 Some 43% of lower-income parents with children whose schools shut down say it is very or somewhat likely their children will have to do schoolwork on their cellphones,” a Pew study conducted in April 2020 found. “About one-third (36%) say it is at least somewhat likely their children will not be able to complete schoolwork because they do not have access to a computer at home.”
Nine out of 10 students at SouthTech Academy, an A-rated high school in Boynton Beach, come from lower-income households. “The goal is for us to have a one-to-one ratio of student to device so that each student, whether they’re on campus or learning from a distance, is able to connect to their classrooms with a camera and with the ability to communicate with their teacher and their classmates,” says Turenne. “We have students who are blank spaces on a screen right now because they don’t have the technology that they need.”
Virginia and Harvey Kimmel have already made an impact on the lives of many children and teens in the community through their support of the Milagro Center, the Delray Beach Public Library and other local cultural and educational organizations. They believe the type of education provided by SouthTech Schools, which offers students the opportunity to develop skills through 11 different career academies, is essential. Most students graduate from the charter school having already earned industry certifications in their chosen field.
“It’s a critical resource to the community and to the children in the community,” says Harvey Kimmel. “When they graduate, they have something that can help them get a job or start a career. Many go on to community college.”
SouthTech has launched the ‘Put the Tech in SouthTech’ campaign to ensure every student has the necessary technology to succeed. “We currently are in need of 650 Chromebooks, which cost $290 a piece that equates to $188,550 to achieve a one-to-one student to device ratio,” Turenne says. “We’re reaching out to individuals, businesses and the community-at-large to help us raise the necessary funds to meet our goal.”
Whether planning to continue on to college or enter the workforce following graduation, without access to a computer and basic computer skills, the students will face almost insurmountable obstacles.
Lucy, a senior at SouthTech studying graphic design in the school’s Commercial Arts Academy, was having a hard time keeping up when the school relied on remote learning. “I have access to a computer at home, but my computer doesn’t run as well as it should,” she says. “It was really slow. It was stressful. It would just take forever.”
The situation with technology is just as difficult in the middle school, according to Principal Nicole Handy, who is concerned about families keeping their students at home without the necessary tools. “They’re the ones who are slipping further and further away. And my fear is they’re not going to come back. If we don’t get them back now, they’re not going to go on to high school and they are not going to be able to complete their education.
Turenne is hoping that more donors like the Kimmels will step up and help: “We are incredibly grateful to Virginia and Harvey for their generosity and for their support of our mission. Our students are going to go even farther with the laptops the grant will provide – and with the knowledge that someone believes in them and thinks they are worth investing in.”
To donate to the “Put the Tech in SouthTech” campaign or for more information, please contact Steven Kozak, Business Development Manager for the school, at email@example.com or (561) 364-7902
SouthTech Academy’s Automotive Technology Program has partnered with Hunter Engineering. Hunter will provide its state-of-the-art automotive service equipment for use by SouthTech’s students in the Automotive Technology Academy. The partnership insures that SouthTech’s students will always be learning their skills on the most technologically advanced equipment in the industry. Hunter will utilize the SouthTech Academy automotive facility for its regional training of South Florida technicians from Orlando to Miami. SouthTech’s students will also participate in the industry training provided by Hunter. Hunter Engineering is a global leader in wheel alignment machines, wheel balancers, tire changers, brake service equipment, alignment lifts, and inspection lane equipment.
Wharton-Smith Construction Inc. has graciously provided SouthTech Academy with a new gym floor complete with their logo, the Bulldog, after learning the project did not budget for the refurbishment. After being vacated for several years, the school formally known as Odyssey Middle School was transformed into Palm Beach County’s Premier Career & Technical high school, SouthTech Academy I partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County. Michael O’Neil, the project superintendent for Wharton-Smith, was instrumental in facilitating and funding the project that included a thorough floor sanding, finishing, logo creation, and logo placement representing the building’s new residents. SouthTech Schools is indebted to Michael and the Wharton-Smith management Team for their kind gift.
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