DPS Foundation Delivers Digital Equity

A girl at a computer with Accelerating Digital Equity logo

DPS Foundation Dedicates itself to Accelerating Digital Equity

Through perseverance and tenacity, the Durham Public School Foundation’s extraordinary Accelerating Digital Equity campaign helped to “deliver the schools our children deserve.”

A dedication to public schools

Headshot of Magan Gonzales-Smith

As the daughter of a first-generation college student, Magan Gonzales-Smith has always had a passion for public education. She has dedicated her career to improving educational systems in North Carolina, most recently serving as associate director of insights and impact for the Hill Learning Center, where she built research partnerships and supported local elementary schools in devising literacy strategies for struggling students. Her unwavering commitment to and passion for public education has made Gonzales-Smith and the organization she helped to found, the Durham Public Schools Foundation, ideal partners for Duke to support local schools.

Even amidst a global pandemic, the DPS Foundation has been able to help Durham children receive access to high-quality education. Under Gonzales-Smith’s leadership, the foundation has launched an impressive community-wide campaign to provide students with access to high-quality remote instruction.

Success through partnership

Selfie of three parents of the Burton Parent Mentor Partnership smiling with masks on
Parents from the Burton Parent Mentor Partnership, partners of the Accelerating Digital Equity Campaign.

The Accelerating Digital Equity Campaign launched in June 2020 with the goal of raising at least $1.5 million to address equity needs as the Durham school district shifted to a remote learning environment. The campaign has reached and exceeded its initial goal with the help of Duke University and Duke Health’s early lead gift of $250,000, as well as the generous contributions of 844 other businesses, foundations, civic organizations, faith communities, and individuals.

Working with the school system and other community partners, the DPS Foundation has allocated campaign funds to the most urgent digital equity areas of need. Funds from this campaign have already been used to equip students with learning devices at the beginning of the school year, create the student IT Help Desk internship, train teachers on methods for effective remote instruction, provide hundreds of students with free access to HOPE Learning Centers, and fund 28 individual projects addressing digital equity needs across 23 different public schools in Durham. One of the programs that benefited from the campaign’s funds is the Parent Mentor Partnership at Burton Elementary School. “The School Improvement Team is very excited to have this program. We have seen some improvement in the school attendance and academics of the students who have parents engaged in this program. The parents have also improved their natural support system by having a mentor. One parent was facing criminal charges but with the support of her mentor she is now on probation and actively seeking employment.”

Digital equity beyond COVID-19

Duke sponsored this campaign and provided an early donation to help launch its fundraising efforts. Additionally, Duke staff and students comprised 20 of the 65 members of the volunteer team who shared their time, talents, personal resources, and connections to ensure the success of this campaign for the benefit of all DPS students and the Durham community. Vice president of Durham and Community Affairs and a member of the Accelerating Digital Equity Campaign Steering Committee, Stelfanie Williams, understands the importance of the campaign in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “DPS’s system-wide implementation of digital equity takes us beyond the urgency of our current situation to create new opportunities for students, teachers, and families,” said Williams, “We are proud to accelerate this transformation with a strategic investment in our community.”

“We are proud to accelerate this transformation with a strategic investment in our community”

Gonzales-Smith and the DPS Foundation’s dedication to ensuring all Durham public school students experience high-quality remote instruction has been a successful partnership with Duke to improve our community’s public education system.

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