Over $145K In Donations Raised For Girls Using Taco Bell WiFi To Do Schoolwork

taco bell wifi

One of the biggest challenges we’re seeing with distance learning is that many families who live in low-income, urban areas simply do not have the resources to be able to adequately teach their children at home. Though most school districts have been able to distribute laptops, other hurdles include childcare (for single parents, in particular), lack of workspaces, and even having access to a secure WiFi connection.

Sadly, such was the case of two Salinas, California girls who were seen using their laptops in a local Taco Bell parking lot so they could connect to the fast-food restaurant’s WiFi to complete their lessons. But thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

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My mom sent me this picture today. These 2 young girls were looking for a place with WiFi to do their school work so they sat near Taco Bell to connect to the free WiFi. A lot of us don’t have to worry about having a proper WiFi connection or a quiet place to work from home. Every student from preschool through college should have free access to reliable WiFi especially now. What can we do as a community to pull together for students who need something as simple as WiFi in order to succeed? Please share and tag people in our community who can help. UPDATE: THE GIRLS WERE IDENTIFIED BY THEIR SCHOOL DISTRICT AND GIVEN HOTSPOTS! I’M SURE THERE ARE OTHER CHILDREN IN NEED, I AM HOPING THEY ALL GET THE TOOLS THEY NEED! IF LOCAL BUSINESSES WOULD LIKE TO DONATE THEIR SPACE TO SET UP OUTDOOR INTERNET CAFES, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I WOULD LOVE TO HELP RALLY UP SUPPLIES AND MAN POWER! I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO REACH OUT TO YOUR OWN COMMUNITIES TO HELP STUDENTS IN YOUR AREA PLEASE CHECK OUT THE UPDATE ON THE FALSE POLICE ALLEGATIONS MADE BY A REPOSTER OF THIS PICTURE! DO HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU DONATE TO ANYONE. UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS QUESTIONABLE BEHAVIOR. HOPING THAT THOSE HELPING HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS. 😞 Although I appreciate it, please don’t follow my page. It’s only public for now because of this picture but I will be erasing all new followers. #freewifi #salinas #equityineducation #socialinjustice #socialinequality #educationmatters #wififorall #educationforall #salinascalifornia #digitaldivide #cometogether #communitylove #ittakesavillage #saveourkids #dosomething

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The scene was captured in the above Instagram post, which quickly went viral, and it wasn’t long before the girls were identified. Thanks to an anonymous tip from a neighbor, a woman named Jackie Lopez reached out to the girls’ mother Juana, who confessed that the family of three was about to be evicted from a small bedroom they shared in a home they had been living in.

It was then that Lopez got the idea to start a GoFundMe campaign for the family, which has exceeded its $20,000 goal to the tune of $145,000 and counting!

In the short term, Lopez writes on the campaign page, they were able to secure a hotel room for Juana and her daughters to stay temporarily. But in addition to accepting donations, they’re still searching for a permanent place for the family to live. They also found an accountant to help Juana manage these funds.

For now they are safe but they need as much help as they can get. Thank you for helping change their lives. All children deserve a happy place to live and because of their dedication, these little girls deserve a safe space to learn. We appreciate every single one of you for helping making that happen.

Though the Salinas City Elementary School District, where the girls attend classes, is not affiliated in any way with the GoFundMe campaign, they did provide them with a hotspot shortly after the photo began going viral.

“The digital divide is very real and delays in receiving needed technology are a statewide concern,” Salinas City Elementary School District President Amy Ish said in a statement. “We are grateful the State is making technology a priority and look forward to receiving these hotspots in our District.”

The school district is in full distance learning mode for its nearly 8,500 students. So far, the district has already distributed 8,245 Chromebooks, 1,500 hotspots, and is waiting on an additional 2,500 hotspots.

A spokesperson for Taco Bell Corp. told USA Today that the photo is “a tough reminder of basic inequalities facing our communities.”

“We and our franchisees have always been passionate about supporting youth education, and the owner of this restaurant is looking into additional ways to support these students and the broader community,” the spokesperson added.

The original image has since been shared widely on social media to highlight the basic inequalities many families are facing during this public health crisis.

Luckily for this family, they evidently picked the right Taco Bell parking lot to work in, but their story also serves as a stark reminder that so many families like them are in need of help.

Stacey Ritzen

Written by Stacey Ritzen