SAN JUAN — A local nonprofit provided 60 Rio Grande Valley families with access to the worldwide web via a campaign that provided either a $400 voucher for internet services or a computer for families who have never owned one.

La Union del Pueblo Entero began a campaign dubbed “Right to Internet” earlier this year after organizers realized students living in colonias were facing unprecedented issues with distance learning.

“Internet access is a necessity in the best of times. In a pandemic, it’s a lifeline,” Sergio Treviño, a digital organizer at La Unión del Pueblo Entero, said in a news release Monday. “Since the pandemic sent students into distance learning, it became obvious that children of the colonias were falling behind. So we launched a campaign to win the right to internet access in all rural neighborhoods.”

Those children were often using smaller, less powerful devices, such as phones, to complete their school work, Treviño said.

“The digital divide is a structural divide, a deep inequality that relegates low-income families to a second class status when it comes to education and information,” he said. “Now, 60 families organizing with LUPE are taking a major step toward internet and informational equality.”

Treviño also spoke about his firsthand experience with the campaign.

“When I met with colonia parents to help them purchase their first computer, I knew what a big deal it was,” he said. “That computer was not just helping kids to keep up with their schooling, but giving access to an entire family to new technology and the internet.”

Juanita Valdez-Cox, LUPE executive director, thanked donors for their contributions and noted the campaign continues to accept donations.

“Our team at LUPE is so grateful for all your support this year,” she said. “Students need (access to the internet) to be able to do homework, and without it, their education suffers. That is why we took on this campaign at La Unión del Pueblo Entero. We know how important this matter was to more than 8,000 members.”

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