Rihanna Stewart shares a laptop with her five siblings, while juggling school work and job applications. A ninth-grader from Augustus F. Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles, Stewart and her younger brother, Keith Rick said they are relieved to get a laptop that would help them improve their grades.
Actor, producer, director and writer Somalie Inez, who is also the president and founder of the Point of Love Foundation, arranged to give away 49 laptops to the Ninth Grade Black Students Achievement Program at the school on Jan. 27, under the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), to help them do homework and submit college applications.
“The most fulfilling part of Point of Love is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when we make a difference and the peace that comes through them, letting them know that there’s people here,” Inez said.
The laptops were donated to the organization by Rama Arya, founder and CEO at Elevated Life Solutions, an organization which aims to provide underprivileged children with technological aid. According to their website, the organization provided laptops worth $70,000 in total to families in 2021 to help bridge a “technology gap.”
The technology gap, exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic, reveals that many low-income families lack the technological support and internet access needed to complete schoolwork or work from home. When schools were forced to switch to online learning, some students began falling behind in their schoolwork because their families could not afford to buy computers or tablets for their children. A 2021 report estimated that more than one-fifth of low-income households do not have access to a computing device.
Actors Kareem Grimes from the CW’s “All American” and Nika King, better known as Leslie Bennett – Rue’s mom from “Euphoria”, also attended the giveaway. They spent part of the event helping pack laptops into cases donated by King’s own foundation, Rose of Sharon. They also mingled with the students, asked about their life goals and what they planned on doing with the laptops.
“There is no ceiling for these kids,” Grimes said. “And I told them the next billion dollar idea could come from them by being on a computer. So, that’s a true blessing.”
For some students, a laptop offers ways to decompress after a long day at school. Shanayah Loring, a ninth-grader, wants to play video games and watch Netflix to unwind.
“Sometimes I might search some things online when the school laptop is not working or [when] my phone is dead,” she added.
King seemed to be at ease with the students, talking to them about their lives at school and hobbies. She is the president of Rose of Sharon LA, an organization she runs with her mother, Sharon. Their mission statement promises to support underserved and marginalized communities, with special emphasis on the Black community in South L.A.
King said using her platform and large following to bring positive change to the lives of people has always made her feel happy.
“Today, it was about the kids, and I just loved their energy, seeing them light up with a new computer and a laptop bag that we’ve supplied them through the multiple nonprofits,” she said in an interview with Annenberg Media. “So, I’m happy I was a part of it.”
Jamie Mena, a student of the class, had been using his father’s laptop to do his homework and research on NFTs. With his new laptop, he wants to delve further into this arena and gain expertise on it.
“I have been researching for almost two months now,” he said. “I plan on making NFTs if I can. If not, I just want to watch movies on it in my spare time.”
King also expressed concern about how millennials and Gen-Zers hold a bad reputation for being too technology-driven but believes they have “drive and desire” — qualities they need to succeed in the future.
“They just need the tools to do their work, research and just not fall behind because they don’t have a laptop,” she said.