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ConnectingUS: New laptop, new chance

By: Margaret Harding McGill, NTIA 

Dalia Calderon was ready to quit college, for the second time. She had returned to Mercy University after a 20-year break, but the combination of online classes and an ancient laptop was proving to be too much to bear. 

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I can finish school. I'm just going to drop out - I’m already old,’” said Calderon, 47, who lives in the Bronx. “That’s when I got an email that said they were loaning laptops. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’” 

Mercy University has loaned more than 500 laptops and hotspots to help students like Calderon access the Internet as part of a program funded by a $2.6 million Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 

Calderon first attended Mercy when she was in her twenties, but between having children and the cost of tuition, she was unable to graduate. She now works at an elementary school, and the principal urged her to return to college so she could obtain her teaching license. 

Calderon worked as a private tutor to save up the money to re-enroll. She took online classes so she could continue to work, but her ancient laptop was not up to the task. With only two classes left, she was ready to give up. 

 That’s when she heard about Mercy’s new laptop program. When she went to campus to pick hers up, she learned it was also Internet-enabled. 

“I broke out in tears,” Calderon said. “It was really hard for me. I didn’t think I was going to finish. I thought I can’t afford another laptop – there's just no way. When this came along, I was just so grateful.” 

Now, Calderon is closing in on graduation. In fact, she recently submitted how she wants her name to appear on her degree. 

Why Internet for All matters to me: “Everything now in the world is based on technology. You can’t do anything really if you don’t have the proper technology. Everyone having full access at all times – it's ideal.” – Dalia Calderon, 47, New York City.