“Have Knowledge, Will Travel” Estella Pyfrom’s Brilliant Bus Brings Computers & Internet to Those Without
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Can you imagine life without a computer or an internet connection? In an age where cell phones, tablets, and eReaders are common in houses across the country and kids go home to conduct research for homework online using personal computers, it’s hard to imagine that there are households that don’t have home computers with access to the internet but they exist. The inequality of access to digital technology is often referred to as the “digital divide” but Estella Pyfrom travels Florida’s Gold Coast in her Brilliant Bus, bringing technology to those in need.
Pyfrom is a 76 year old retired educator who, after an illustrious career teaching and serving as a counselor, invested her pension in a bus outfitted with 17 computer workstations. She and her team of volunteers visit underserved neighborhoods that don’t have access to technology in the Palm Beach County area, making stops at day care centers, community events, and community centers in places such as The Glades and Vero Beach.
“When we go into a neighborhood, we listen and try to structure our activities based on the needs,” Pyfrom stated during a recent phone interview.
Families with children as young as 3 years old get access to pre-kindergarten curriculum that helps prepare kids for school by teaching reading readiness skills and includes diagnostics. High school students have the opportunity to use online curriculum to prepare for Florida’s state standardized tests, college standardized tests, and the GED. All curriculum taught on the Brilliant Bus is correlated to national Common Core standards, Florida state standards, and district standards.
Pyfrom believes that aligning the curriculum on the Brilliant Bus with what is taught in schools helps further a child’s learning. “When we’re in communication with kids, they understand. When we’re talking to teachers, we’re talking the same language.”
In order to know what each child and family within the community needs, Pyfrom says she asks. “As we’re talking to kids and adults, we find out on the very first visit how many have internet and don’t.”
In addition to providing online curriculum to meet the needs of the populations that the Brilliant Bus serves, Pyfrom also ensures that she spreads the word about Comcast Internet Essentials, a program that provides qualifying applicants with access to the internet and a laptop for $9.95/month. According to Pyfrom, this helps “bridge the gap between those who have computers and those who don’t.” It also provides families with “constant access to the online curriculum 24/7.”
Since Estella’s Brilliant Bus began serving communities in 2011, she estimates that she has spent $900,000. Funds for a majority of the bus’ expenses have come from Pyfrom’s personal retirement and community partners such as Boca Raton based Office Depot who provided $20,000 worth of computers, tablets, digital cameras, webcams, Microsoft Office software, office supplies, and financial support. However, when this school year ends, Pyfrom is concerned about additional support for new computers to replace outdated ones and office supplies.
More information about Estella’s Brilliant Bus can be found through her website and donations for her nonprofit can be accepted through Office Depot’s REAL Change by selecting Estella via Pahokee Middle-Senior High.
Image courtesy of EstellasBrilliantBus.org
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