Principal Kiante Jones hands a backpack with a Chromebook to Sydney Burd, 12. (Cindy Schultz photos)
Principal Kiante Jones hands a backpack with a Chromebook to Sydney Burd, 12. (Cindy Schultz photos)
Sydney Burd only has one computer at her house to share with her siblings. Her family uses her dad’s work computer, and has to balance time between her father’s work schedule and their own to make time for schoolwork.

Burd, a seventh-grader at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady, approached her teachers at the start of the year about not having computer access at home. It’s an issue that many families encountered this past year. During the pandemic, remote learning underscored the need for students to have access to resources such as laptops and strong Wi-Fi.

Now, that’s all changing.

On Oct. 7, Burd was among 57 eligible students at NDBG who were provided Chromebooks, backpacks and, if needed, a Wi-Fi hotspot. The donation was part of a recent $500,000 grant awarded to the Albany Diocesan School Board from The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, and will provide technology assistance to students from low-income families throughout all the diocesan schools.

“I’m really grateful for it,” said Catherine Bholaisingh, a senior at NDBG. “Especially with the college application process starting.”

“When it comes to school supplies, the pandemic has affirmed just how essential a Chromebook is for today’s Catholic school student,” said Giovanni Virgiglio, diocesan superintendent of schools. “We are grateful to be able to provide our students with the resources they need to be successful digital citizens through the generous support of the Mother Cabrini Foundation.”

Mickie Baldwin, director of development and advancement at NDBG, noted that more than one quarter of the student body would be receiving Chromebooks thanks to this grant.

“So many kids were doing work on a cell phone,” she said. “We’re more than a community, we’re a family. So by utilizing this grant we can bring those tools into students’ homes and into their lives.”

Richard Harrigan, technology coordinator and history teacher at NDBG, also was approached by a student at the start of the year inquiring about getting a laptop from the school: “The pandemic definitely emphasized” the necessity for devices, he said. “A lot of these tools are becoming closer to normal than they have before.”

Getting to see the Chromebooks arrive for the students was a big day for the school. “It’s super exciting,” Baldwin added. “These (Chromebooks) will be theirs throughout their career at NDBG. I hope it teaches them how to expand their skill set and spark their creativity.”

The Catholic School Office   (CSO) determined hundreds of students throughout their 21 schools could benefit from this grant. In total, 239 Chromebooks and 85 hotspots were ordered and are currently being delivered to students.

Nate Peters, technology grant administrator for CSO, has been out making deliveries to schools since the start of the year. The ­office will also be delivering 75 iPads to elementary students, though manufacturing and shipping issues have delayed the order for now. Chromebooks have already been delivered to St. Mary’s School in Amsterdam, St. Jude the Apostle School in Wynantskill, St. Mary’s School in Ballston Spa, St. Mary’s School in Waterford, Sacred Heart School in Troy, Saint Madeleine Sophie School in Schenectady, Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, St. Clement’s School in Saratoga Springs, All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany, Saratoga Catholic High School, Mater Christi School in Albany, Blessed Sacrament School in Albany, St. Ambrose School in Latham, and St. Thomas the Apostle School in Delmar.

“The hope is students will be taking these to and from school, doing their work on them,” ­Peters said. “We want these to be a workforce for these kids, whether they’re remote or not.

“When some students aren’t able to have access to strong internet or a computer but other students can, it puts them in a corner,” Peters added. “To make sure everyone has a hotspot available, it’s our way to remedy that.”