More Than $129,000 Donated to Family Using Taco Bell’s Wi-Fi for School

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A photo of two young girls sitting on a curb outside a Salinas, California Taco Bell doing school work on laptops has prompted nearly 4,000 people to donate money to their family after a woman named Jackie Lopez learned of the situation and started a Go-Fund-Me. The girls were there because they needed Wi-Fi to do their schoolwork and did not have internet access at home.

At the time of this writing, the donations have reached $129,017.

Lopez wrote on the Go Fund Me Page that she started the fundraiser “for the girls – the dedicated little girls that didn’t want to miss out on learning due to the fact that they didn’t have internet access at home so they walked to the Taco Bell near where they were staying at to use the WIFI. Their story touched me so much I made it my mission to find them and with an anonymous tip from a neighbor I was able to locate them.”

In tracking the girls down to try to help, Lopez met their mother, Juana, and learned that she is a single mom who picks berries in the fields for work and sells ice-cream, snacks, and candy during the off-season. She also tries to supplement her income by selling flowers on the side of the road. The family was on the verge of being kicked out of the home they’d been living in where the four of them shared a bedroom, but she hadn’t been able to find anywhere for them to go, according to Lopez’s Go-Fund-Me post.

With the money pouring into the fundraiser, Lopez says she’s been helping the family by getting them in a hotel for the week while they look for something more permanent, and finding Juana an accountant to help with the sudden influx of money into the life of a woman who has been doing whatever she can make ends meet to provide for her children.


The Photo Illustrates an Ongoing Disparity Between the Haves & Have Nots, Striking a Nerve With Many

While the donation goal was originally $20,000, something about this situation has hit a nerve with people, with many taking to Twitter to express their own experiences having to use businesses’ Wi-Fi in order to do school work growing up, and others who posit the irony of these children living about 90 miles from Silicon Valley, yet they and other children from low-income homes are not afforded a better means to the internet in such a wealthy, technologically progressive part of the country.

Disparities involving internet access lie on racial and socioeconomic lines, according to Pew Research. In March 2020, 58% of eighth-graders polled in a national survey said they use the internet every day or almost every day to do homework. Only 6% of eighth-graders said they never need the internet to do homework. Yet Pew Research found that at about one-third of students in homes with less than $30,000 annual incomes do not have internet, and often those families are Black and Hispanic.

According to Pew:

The “homework gap” – which refers to school-age children lacking the connectivity they need to complete schoolwork at home – is more pronounced for black, Hispanic and lower-income households. Some 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home… School-age children in lower-income households are especially likely to lack broadband access. Roughly one-third (35%) of households with children ages 6 to 17 and an annual income below $30,000 a year do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, compared with just 6% of such households earning $75,000 or more a year. These broadband gaps are particularly pronounced in black and Hispanic households with school-age children – especially those with low incomes.


The District Has Given the Family Hotspots So the Girls Can Do Their Work as School Officials Call for the State to Provide Internet to All Students

Go Fund MeA struggling Salinas family gets a hotel room to stay in after donations pour in for little girls who were doing homework on a curb outside a Taco Bell because they cannot afford Wi-Fi.

CNN reported that since the district was made aware of the Go-Fund-Me and the children’s situation they have provided hotspots for the girls so that they can do their homework wherever they find a new home.

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo used the situation to make another call for a universal broadband infrastructure bond for students in California which he wrote about on Aug. 5 in a piece called “California Needs a Universal Broadband Infrastructure Bond for Our Students.” 

With the photo and the fundraiser finding new traction, he reiterated his call for internet for all students, saying in a Tweet, “2 of our children trying to get Wi-Fi for their classes outside a Taco Bell in East Salinas! We must do better & solve this digital divide once & for all for all California students.”

According to Aleho’s article, “It is estimated that 1.2 million students, or a whopping 20 percent of all students in California, do not have access to even the most basic Internet resources in their homes. This problem is especially pervasive in California’s rural, low-income and communities of color.”

Alejo wrote that State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said in April, “Every student should have a computer and every student should have access to the Internet.”

Whether that will happen is anyone’s guess.

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