Equal Access Santa Cruz County Update

Keeping Dreams on Track

Photo: Sugey Carrizoza is working on completing her GED online thanks to getting connected to the internet via Equal Access Santa Cruz County.

For Sugey Carrizoza, completing her GED is a necessary step in the life plan she’s made with her case manager at Pajaro Valley Shelter Services (PVSS). But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has kept her coursework online and she didn’t have internet access.

PVSS does a lot to support clients as they transition out of homelessness and reach their self-sufficiency goals in areas such as employment, financial literacy, parenting, mental health wellness, or immigration issues. While PVSS programs provide stable and safe housing for about 20 families for up to two years, wiring those homes with internet wasn’t something they could offer, until now.

Left: Yuriana 8th grade; Right: Jacqueline 12th grade. Their mother Maria says that girls are finally able to complete their homework at home, now that they have an internet connection.

Equal Access = Full Participation

Late last year, PVSS reached out to Cruzio Internet for help through Equal Access Santa Cruz County (EASC), an initiative of the local internet service provider and the Community Foundation. Thanks to past EASC projects in the area, a fast, reliable, network to connect to was newly available. Cruzio completed the infrastructure work for five residential properties, and recently, brought high-speed broadband internet access to 17 families.

Getting homes wired up and connected is the first step, but customers still need to pay the monthly internet bill. That’s the second part of what EASC offers–subsidized service made possible by generous donations to the Community Foundation’s EASC Fund.

“In this age of increasing digital dependence in schools and workplaces, our families were lagging in opportunity compared to their more affluent neighbors. Now our kids can participate in everything their classmates do and their parents can connect via video conferencing with their doctors, case managers, therapists, and employers. Equal Access and connectivity improves our kids’ self-esteem as they are now on a level playing field with their peers and that leads to better success generally,” said Mike Johnson, PVSS’ executive director.

Jay, Ben, and Ali from the Cruzio team during the Live Oak broadband installation.

Signals of Change County-Wide

EASC is picking up momentum across the county and success to date is attracting new resources. The next big project will benefit Live Oak School District families, thanks to a $500,000 grant of American Rescue Plan funds awarded by County of Santa Cruz Supervisors. The project is modeled off the work done in Pajaro Valley Unified School District which provides high-speed broadband to more than one-third of the Pajaro Valley and where donors’ gifts offer subsidized service to 317 student families who previously lacked access. Improvements in Live Oak will be completed by the end of April and be capable of connecting approximately 800 families.

Philanthropy Sparks Lasting Impact

This collaboration between industry, education, and philanthropy is providing real solutions and lasting change for families. Initiatives like EASC are crucial in making sure access to the most basic tools needed to succeed in school and in life, are available to everyone. For Sugey it means being able to finish schoolwork from home, and staying on track toward her GED. As PVSS knows, for people tackling life goals with determination, the future is brighter, and access is just the beginning.

Expand digital equity across Santa Cruz County.

Give to the Equal Access Fund today