Hartford Foundation and First Book Award $1 Million in Grants to Six Connecticut School Districts for Computers and Home Internet Access, Funded by The LEGO Group and The LEGO Foundation

The initiative enables remote learning for nearly 3,000 students in need

July 9, 2020 (WASHINGTON) – Six school districts in Connecticut will begin the school year with new Chromebooks and home Internet connectivity, enabling distance learning for the first time for nearly 3,000 students from underserved communities. The $1 million initiative will support students in kindergarten through Grade 5 in the Bloomfield, East Hartford, Manchester, Vernon, Windsor, and Windsor Locks school districts. The grants, awarded by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and made possible through funding from The LEGO Group and The LEGO Foundation are being distributed by First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education.

“On behalf of the children of East Hartford, I want to thank LEGO and the Hartford Foundation for this generous donation.  Bridging the electronic divide and providing our kids with high quality devices is an important first step towards access and opportunity,” said Nathan Quesnel, Superintendent of East Hartford Public Schools. “We are extremely excited to get these devices in our kids’ hands and to support their learning as we all look to accelerate the learning agenda.  We are inspired by LEGO’s generosity to step up on behalf of our community and work to solve a challenge in a way that will have significant impact on our students and families.”

“For the majority of students growing up in underserved communities, without access to home computers or the Internet, the school year essentially ended this spring, when schools were forced to close abruptly due to COVID-19,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “While school districts and teachers have stepped up in amazing ways to support their students during this time, leaving kids without devices and connectivity is the equivalent of locking them out of the school system. We are so grateful for the commitment and leadership of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, The LEGO Group and The LEGO Foundation for helping us bridge the digital divide for thousands of Connecticut children!”

In a survey conducted this spring by First Book, more than 2,600 educators from the First Book Network, a community of more than 475,000 teachers and program leaders serving children in need, indicated that approximately 40 percent of the children they serve don’t have access to devices or the Internet. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this divide an educational crisis for these children. As a result, 85 percent of respondents are now more concerned about the negative impacts of the digital divide than they were before the pandemic.

“For the past several years, the Hartford Foundation has been working closely with our region’s Alliance Districts to support efforts to build closer family, school and community partnerships,” said Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams. “Once schools were closed in March, Foundation staff reached out to these districts to help ensure that students and families continue to have the resources they need. One of the major issues the district leaders raised was the lack of computers and internet access in many households. We are grateful for the generosity of The Lego Group and Lego Foundation for this significant support and for our partnership with First Book. Thanks to this collaboration, thousands of our students will have access to computers and internet they need, even if schools do not reopen in August as currently planned.”

“At the LEGO Group, we know how vital it is for children to have continued access to learning, especially during these uncertain times.” said Skip Kodak, president, LEGO Systems, Inc. “We are thrilled to be able to support schools in Connecticut, the home of our Americas headquarters, with a grant that will help provide computers and internet access for children in need.”

In addition to partnerships like these to increase access to technology resources, First Book has worked with its publishing and corporate partners, funders and individual donors to dramatically expand access to books and resources for children from underserved communities impacted by school closures. During the COVID-19 crisis alone, First Book has distributed more than 6.4 million books and 1.8 million codes providing free access to digital resources and eBooks. In its 28-year-history, First Book has distributed nearly 200 million books to children in need.

Educators serving Title 1 or Title 1 eligible schools and programs are invited to join First Book at www.firstbook.org/join to access diverse and inclusive books, learning materials, basic necessities and other resources. 

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About Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $795 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.

About The Lego Group and The LEGO Foundation

The LEGO Group’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. The LEGO System in Play, with its foundation in LEGO bricks, allows children and fans to build and rebuild anything they can imagine. The LEGO Group was founded in Billund, Denmark in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, its name derived from the two Danish words LEg GOdt, which mean “Play Well”. Today, the LEGO Group remains a family-owned company headquartered in Billund and its products are now sold in more than 140 countries worldwide. For more information: www.LEGO.com.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, DUPLO, Technic, NINJAGO, the Minifigure and the brick & knob configuration are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2020 The LEGO Group.

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its nearly 30-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2.0 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 475,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. All formal and informal educators serving children in poverty are encouraged to join the First Book Network, the largest and fastest-growing community of their peers, here.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of particular need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.

For more information, visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

CONTACT:

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

Chris Senecal

860.716.4816, csenecal@hfpg.org

First Book

Lisa Herling

917.912.4273, lherling@firstbook.org