When Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer made the difficult decision to close schools statewide in response to the coronavirus pandemic, school districts across the state worked quickly to provide students and their parents the resources they needed to continue their education remotely. However, this posed a particularly difficult challenge for the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), which estimated that 90% of their K-12 students lack an appropriate device and adequate internet access for distance learning.
The Rock Family of Companies has long supported the DPSCD as part of our dedication to provide quality educational opportunities for Detroit students, and while we have been making strides to bridge this immense digital divide, this pandemic has made it clearer than ever before that internet is a critical utility that should be accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, Detroit has the lowest rate of internet connectivity in the United States. This massive inequity is holding our city back, and we’re committed to creating a solution to address this digital divide now and in the future.
What the pandemic has taught us is that there are cascading opportunities to step in and make a difference in a big way. In April, the Quicken Loans Community Fund and the Gilbert Family Foundation made a $2 million commitment to the Connected Futures initiative, which will ensure that Detroit students and their families receive a computer tablet and high-speed LTE internet connectivity so they can continue their education and access additional online resources.
“I’m extremely proud of how our companies have stepped up to help our communities respond to COVID-19, and I know that the work we’re doing will lay a strong foundation for continued support and make our communities more resilient and inclusive in the future” said Laura Grannemann, VP of Strategic Investments for The Quicken Loans Community Fund. In addition to Quicken Loans, a coalition of leading Detroit leading businesses was formed in partnership with DPSCD to support the initiative, including DTE Energy, the Skillman Foundation, General Motors, and the Kellogg Foundation have committed to funding. The first six months of internet connectivity will be fully subsidized during which time students will be transitioned to a low-cost, hard-wired connection.
“When we look back to this time in 10 years, we will see that this moment changed the trajectory of education in our city,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “We have risen to the challenge of this pandemic and found a way to forge something positive for our children. This will be a defining moment of pride in Detroit for many, many years.”
This large-scale initiative has also served as a catalyst for several related projects and events to support closing the digital divide, including “Changing the Course,” a new community initiative being spearheaded by the Rocket Mortgage Classic that aims to ensure access to digital connectivity to Detroit residents by 2025.