The human component.

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A new BBC documentary highlights the impact Verizon Innovative Learning has had in the lives of students, teachers, and community of Lady Bird Johnson Middle School.



By: Cara Jurkowski

Ah, middle school. Whether you recall your own experiences (I’m still trying to forget) or happen to have a middle schooler of your own (I’ll lend you mine for a while...), you’ll probably agree that it’s a time marked by transition.

It’s a transition from tweens to teens, and it can be dramatic. Interests change. Voices crack. Growth spurts disappoint some and leave others as gangly as colts. Acne breaks out. Braces for teeth, scoliosis, growth-loosened joints. Elementary school friendships born of convenience are replaced with those forged by common interests and activities. Crushes emerge with the stealth of hunting cats … or runaway steamrollers.

The outline of adulthood.

It’s also a time that is remarkably influential, sketching out in light strokes the adult that the child will become, in which exposing students to myriad experiences can have a profound effect on their future passions. It’s for this reason Verizon Innovative Learning targets middle schools and high schools in our effort to bridge the digital divide.

The BBC Storyworks series “The Human Component,” focuses on how corporations are solving some of the biggest challenges facing humanity, through technology. Verizon’s segment takes an in-depth look at Verizon Innovative Learning in action at Irving’s Lady B... through the eyes of three students participating in the program.

The story of students; the story of a community.

Suha, Derick and Lazaro are eighth grade students, and without the context, you might think they were students at a high-tech STEM academy, rather than at a school where 65% of the students qualify for a free or reduced lunch. With the help of their teacher, Patrick Yates, and their Verizon Innovative Learning Lab, they are learning how to tackle some very grown-up issues through the use of technology.

“The thing I'm most proud of is that I get to help my friends who don’t speak English,” says Lazaro.

Their project? Designing smart glasses capable of helping international students tackle the language barrier. During the course of the class, they’ll assign a project manager, collaborate on a design and 3-D print their prototype. Then, they’ll present it to parents, peers and administrators.

“The students love it,” says Patrick. “They always want to get their hands on the devices.”

“I look around the room; it’s just tech everywhere,” says Suha.

Derick is the Project Manager. “Before this class I never really thought of myself as a leader.” Now? “I can do this. I can be a good leader.”

Seven million stories.

According to the FCC, there are still more than 17 million school-age children that lack internet access at home. Verizon Innovative Learning was launched to address barriers to digital inclusion in Title I schools by working with leading education partners, to empower students with new ways of learning.

In the twelve years since launch, Verizon Innovative Learning has provided extensive support for educators, technology-integrated curriculum, emerging technologies including 5G, and free internet access. We have expanded access to our education programs nationwide through free immersive applications for any device, microcredential-aligned professional development, and tech-focused learning resources.

Our goal is to reach 10 million youth with digital skills training by 2030. To date, we’ve reached 626 middle and high schools nationwide. And with the various programs in the Verizon Innovative Learning umbrella, we’ve already reached more than 7 million students.

7 million stories, just like those of Suha, Derrick and Lazaro, 7 million students that have felt that spark of inspiration fanned into a fire as they discover the possibilities that await in the world of science and technology.

“Because of this class, it really made me want to do robotics in high school,” says Lazaro. “It made me think about my future.”

Suha agrees. “I have the world at my fingertips.”

Learn more about Verizon Innovative Learning here.

About the author: Cara Jurkowski is a failed standup comedian who made up for her lack of comedic success by spending the past two decades telling stories about the communications industry and the amazing people who work to connect the world. When she is not writing about Verizon, she lives in an unofficial Lego museum, slowly working through a steadily growing backlog of unbuilt sets at a perfectly acceptable pace.