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The donation from AT&T and the nonprofit Connected Nation seeks to help students who still lack adequate internet.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - Centro Cultural de Washington County was recently awarded nearly 430 WiFi hotspots to give to students who lack adequate internet access.The internet has become essential for students learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, but many still lack adequate internet access.

To help students in need boost their internet connectivity, two companies are providing nearly 430 free WiFi hotspots to Centro Cultural de Washington County, a Cornelius-based nonprofit working to support the Latino community.

The donation from AT&T and the nonprofit Connected Nation is part of a $10 million commitment to provide internet access to 35,000 students across the country.

Washington County's largest school districts were able to give out thousands of hotspots to students at the start of this school year, providing internet access to every student who said they needed assistance.

But many Washington County students live in rural areas outside those large districts, where internet connectivity was already low. Additionally, the hotspots districts provided will need to be returned at the end of the school year.

George Granger, president of AT&T Oregon, said in a statement that the donation to Centro is crucial to addressing the needs of the most at-risk students

An estimated 155,000 students in Oregon currently lack access to the internet required for successful online learning, AT&T said in a statement.

The disparity is even more acute in rural and under-resourced neighborhoods, where one in three students of color and students with disabilities lack access, AT&T said.

"Many families we serve face a systemic barrier to internet access," said Juan Carlos González, who represents western Washington County on the Metro Board and works as director of development and communications at Centro. "This barrier has been exacerbated in the pandemic, and it will continue to affect families after safety restrictions are lifted.

"Support from AT&T and others will help Centro relieve these barriers for hundreds of families in Washington County, and it will be a key component of rebuilding a more equitable economy."

Tom Ferree, chief executive officer of Connected Nation, added that the hotspots will help kids catch up on learning lost during the pandemic.

"We must all work together to minimize and mitigate the impact that the pandemic has had on our (most) vulnerable youth," Ferree said.

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