With the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrating the ongoing challenges to technology posed for families in southeast Queens, state Senator Leroy Comrie, AhHa!Broadway and 21 Ethos on May 22 hosted a launch event for the 1,000 Kids laptop giveaway.
During the event held at the Robert Ross Family Life Center in St. Albans, laptops were presented to 25 students from area schools to help close the digital divide by delivering necessary technology so they can access arts education and other learning opportunities, which lead to a more well-rounded education and development, including skills for technically oriented futures.
“Our children need to know we believe in them, we support them and we are dedicated to investing in them,” Comrie said. “The AhHa!Broadway and 21 Ethos vision this initiative lifts up, comes at a particularly critical moment as we continue to recover from the pandemic. Giving laptops to these elementary, middle and high school students means that students will be better equipped to learn at every level — including students who are pursuing higher education this fall.”
The initiative fits into a larger vision including access to computers, Wi-Fi access and arts education and programming in the education of students.
“While this collaboration begins with 25 students here in southeast Queens, and will build to 1,000 Kids, this is a starting point for us as policymakers, for educators, for the nonprofit community and for the tech sector as we continue to work to give every student the access to tech they need to succeed,” Comrie said.
AhHa!Broadway co-founder and CEO Heather Edwards has worked as a classically trained pianist professionally since the age of 15 and toured internationally with Broadway productions and appeared in films and television shows with Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, Kevin Bacon and others. As an educator, Edwards has taught more than 10,000 children over the last two decades and formed the nonprofit in response to seeing too many youngsters unable to access the services AhHa!Broadway provides, due to a lack of sufficient technology such as computers. In 2020 she created and launched the 1,000 Kids initiative to solve that issue for as many children as possible.
“Every New Yorker deserves the opportunity to learn, to perform and to believe in themselves,” Edwards said. “AhHa!Broadway exists to make this possible. Our 1,000 Kids initiative was created to ensure that performing arts education is always accessible, even when online learning is necessary. Enabling even one child the ability to change the trajectory of their life can do the same for countless other lives that person will impact.”
Jamaica resident Roniesia Godfrey is the founder of 21 Ethos, a technology education company with the mission of helping minorities break into tech and compete for rewarding, high-paying tech careers.
“We are building stronger communities by investing in our youth and their education,” Godfrey said. “They are eager to learn, and we want to provide opportunities and resources to help them succeed and advance economically.”
Several southeast Queens elected officials, along with Queens Public Library and Lena’s Library, served as community partners in the launch event.
“The most important investment we can make as a community is an investment in our children,” Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers said. “The pandemic revealed the need for robust investments in broadband infrastructure and technology in urban centers and under-resourced communities. I applaud NYS Senator Leroy Comrie, 21 Ethos and AhHa! Broadway for their commitment to providing vital technology, in the form of laptops, for our students to learn and prosper in the 21st century.”