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Community volunteers meet for updates on Hot Spots

In September, Rowan-Salisbury Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody asked churches, businesses, civic groups and volunteers to band together and provide 100 Hot Spots throughout the county where students with digital devices could access the Internet free of charge.

Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs, said at a meeting Monday that the Hot Spots will help equalize Internet accessibility and improve literacy throughout the district’s students.

At least 30 locations have committed to becoming Hot Spots, and many more have shown interest, according to Feimster.

Monday’s meeting gave those who were interested “the details they needed to get started,” Feimster said.

Each location must provide Internet access and at least one adult to staff the site each day the site is open.

“If they want to do more, they can offer homework helpers,” she said, adding that while homework helpers are definitely a plus, they aren’t mandatory.

“A lot of kids don’t need the help, they just need the place,” she said.

Hot Spot locations must be available at least one day or night each week for at least three hours. Community Wi-Fi partners will keep track of the students who use their space and provide liability insurance and background checks for their volunteers.

The school system, in turn, will provide the educational databases, as well as a rotating teacher who can help train volunteers who wish to tutor.

Karen Alexander, who is heading up Literacy Connections and the Hot Spots, said the initiative has “taken a village of people.”

The Miller Center, located in the West End, is already a Hot Spot, thanks to the city of Salisbury. Park Avenue will open at the first of the year, and eventually all city parks will have Wi-Fi.

Joyce Caddell, a volunteer with John Calvin Presbyterian Church, said her church, along with Temple Israel, had initially planned to partner together to provide a Hot Spot.

“We are all about serving,” she said. “It’s one of the basic tenants of our church.”

But Monday’s meeting convinced her they needed to go a different route. Rather than partner to provide their own Hot Spot, the churches have decided to provide volunteers for the Hot Spot at Rowan Helping Ministries instead.

“Our congregations are too tiny,” she said.

“We’re already involved and we’re already involved together,” she said, explaining that the churches volunteer at the shelter at least once a month.

Amanda Hesse, chief operating officer for Rowan County’s YMCAs, and Bridget Dexter, assistant executive director for the county’s East Branch, attended to figure out how the YMCAs could create their own Hot Spots.

“We’re just coming on board,” Hesse said.

“We’re excited,” Dexter added.

Although they didn’t know exactly what their involvement would look like, Dexter said they were excited to see how it could add to their after-school programs.

“It’s going to give them more resources than they currently have – more than we currently offer,” Hesse said.

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