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Washington nonprofit fights digital inequity during pandemic

InvestED has been supporting students since the 1960s but now they face a new battle during the coronavirus pandemic.

SEATTLE — Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many children in Washington are learning from home. 

However, one in five students don't have access to high-speed internet, and 15% of students don't have devices. That literally means these kids can't go to school while districts are doing remote learning. 

While school districts are struggling to get students everything they need, a Renton organization is making sure no one falls through the cracks.

InvestED has been helping kids achieve since the nonprofit was founded in the 1960s. Now, InvestED provides funding to more than 600 secondary schools throughout Washington state to help fill the gap for families. 

They are also helping to tackle the issue of digital inequality. Executive Director Joyce Walters said through the COVID-19 Student Fund, InvestED raised about $1.2 million to send to schools to invest in connectivity for students and devices and nutritional needs.

“No gift is too small, but we’ve been having people step up in a very big way,” Walters said. “We’ve been very fortunate with that.”

Walters also shared a heart-breaking story of how they've helped Washington children beyond the classroom. In Eastern Washington, Walters said a high school student told her counselor she wouldn’t be able to attend her father’s memorial service, because she didn’t have clothes that would be respectful enough. However, the school used InvestED dollars to purchase appropriate clothing for the student.

“Now that may seem like it’s not academic, it’s not a teacher development or leadership development, which are all very important things, but to her at that moment in her life, that barrier was insurmountable,” Walters said.