Getting Connected: CIS, BISD distribute free tablets

Communities in Schools, Boost Mobile and the Brownsville Independent School District spent the morning Tuesday distributing 230 tablet computers to students in the district’s middle and high schools most in need of the technology to connect with their schools through distance learning.

CIS is a dropout prevention program active at each of the 11 BISD middle schools and seven high schools. Site coordinators at each school determined who would receive the Amazon Fire tablets, which are capable of navigating Google Classroom and other applications used in distance learning.

Parents paid a $20 processing fee and students will get to keep the tablets. Students who don’t have internet access at home also received a free hotspot.

Eva Perez, CIS director for Cameron County, said the organization helps students at risk of dropping out to stay in school by providing support for attendance, academics, behavior and basic needs. For example CIS could find out that a student wasn’t attending classes because they lacked an adequate pair of tennis shoes and would provide them.

“We build relationships with students,” she said, adding that site coordinators have a passion for working with students. “Students can come to us. There is a solution and if we don’t have what they need we will get it,” she said.

Eloy Alvarez, the site coordinator at Garcia Middle School, said he and teachers at the school have been keeping in touch with students during the pandemic via phone calls, email and text messages. The tablets will make it easier to communicate with students, many of whom had been keeping up with their classes through traditional pencil-and-paper learning packets.

“Thank goodness for the internet and progress,” he said, adding that the students are excited to be receiving the tablets.

The event took place under the covered drive-thru at the entrance to the Brownsville Event Center. Recipients had been scheduled for designated pickup times. BISD also offered meals through its summer meals van. The new Science, Technology Engineering and Math mobile learning unit was also on site.

Rommy Huerta and her son Francisco Frias waited in line and eagerly accepted the tablet. Francisco attends Garcia Middle School and said he was eager to try out drawing applications on his new device.

“Everything is on line until we go back to school physically,” she said. “He loves to draw.”

CIS contributed $4,600 to the project. Other sponsors included Walmart, Sams Club and the City of Brownsville.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com