El Paso School District Receives $8 Million to Provide Students with Tech Tools, STEM Education

Five middle schools in the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) have joined the Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative and are receiving a grant of $8 million — $1.6 million each — to provide all students and teachers with access to technology tools, service, STEM education programs and training over a two-year period.

The Verizon Foundation is funding the grant, which will benefit Armendariz, Bassett, Charles, Henderson and Morehead middle schools. All students and teachers in these schools will receive a personal mobile device and a two-year Verizon Wireless 4G LTE data plan for 24/7 internet access at school and at home. Teachers will also receive comprehensive, continuous professional development, provided by nonprofit Digital Promise, on how to effectively integrate mobile technology into their lessons.

“Verizon is investing in the future by equipping students with devices, data plans, leadership skills training and more to empower them to explore the possibility of STEM careers,” said Verizon South Central Market President Krista Bourne in a statement. “We’re providing students with the resources and confidence they need to become tomorrow’s creators.”

Over the past couple of weeks, students across the five schools received their tablets at device distribution events with interactive learning experiences, including:

  • Science: Virtual Reality Universe, where students used VR headsets to learn about physical and life sciences through different immersive “worlds”;
  • Engineering: The Great BB-8 Race, in which students used their tablets to control BB-8 droids, discovering how robotics engineering brings their favorite “Star Wars” characters to life.

“This program is a huge opportunity for EPISD students to gain valuable exposure to technology that can truly impact their lives,” EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera said in a statement. “Our students, teachers and parents are all very excited for the experience they are beginning.”

To date, 46 schools, including the five EPISD middle schools, are part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative, which has reached nearly 27,000 students and 2,100 teachers across the country, according to a news release.

According to Pew Research, about one-third (31.4 percent) of households whose annual incomes are below $50,000 and with children ages 6-17 do not have a high-speed internet connection at home. With the rapid dissemination of technology in the schools, this lack of access is believed to place low-income students at a learning disadvantage.

To learn more about the Verizon Learning Initiative, visit

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].