Tech donations help tutoring center for Hispanic students

Technology donations are giving a boost to a nonprofit organization that provides education programs for Hispanic residents in northeast Mississippi.

El Centro, in Tupelo, is receiving three years of free internet access and a $50,000 grant from AT&T and 15 computers from Dell Technologies, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.

“It opens up a lot more possibilities for us, and for us to be able to tell the community, `Whatever you have a need for, we can provide it,”’ El Centro Director Allen Bradford said Thursday of the donation.

El Centro started in 2006. It provides free after-school tutoring and services, adult English classes and workshops on topics relevant to the community.

The computers came with a free digital learning platform, free digital literacy courses and workshops created with the Public Library Association.

El Centro becomes one of more than 20 Connected Learning Centers that AT&T is opening nationwide. The company created its Connected Learning program in response to COVID-19 and the need to bridge the digital divide, said AT&T Mississippi president Mayo Flynt.

“We believe that this type of infrastructure will be able to help … volunteers in their mentoring and after school educational efforts,” Flynt said.

El Centro helps K-6 students with homework because it can be difficult for students who grow up in bilingual homes and communities, Bradford said. During the pandemic, some fell behind when learning at home.

“I’m excited about our kids. They’re eager to learn, they’re bright,” Bradford said. “However, our school system isn’t really catered towards (being) bilingual . . . so it excites us to think that we’re helping them on this side with education.”

The Tupelo Public School District provides teachers for the tutoring program. Thanks to the Early Childhood Coalition, El Centro has a reading program for its K-5 students.

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