Unmasked: The Digital Divide Leaves Students Offline – Tuesday, May 5

Unmasked: The Digital Divide Leaves Students Offline – Tuesday, May 5

by May 1, 2020

Join us as we continue our Unmasked Series examining the impact of the virus on K-12 education and the digital divide.

The digital divide – the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don’t – has long been an issue in the black community. That gap has become more critical as Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and others across the nation abruptly shifted to online instruction only as stay-at-home orders were implemented. With many in the black community facing limited access and resources, we will discuss how Charlotte teachers have responded, how our students are faring in this new learning environment and the resources that are available to help close the gap for the families impacted the most.

Sonja Gantt, CMS Foundation Executive Director, moderates this important discussion. Joining her are Janeen Bryant, Director of Operations, CREED; two West Charlotte High School teachers: Natalie Jones, Art Teacher, and Franchone Bey, head of the English Department; and Pat Millen, Founder/President, E2D-Eliminate the Digital Divide, Inc.

The discussion will be streamed via the Gantt Center’s YouTube live channel at 7 pm on Tuesday, May 5.

Gantt Center's YouTube channel

How To Participate

Viewing this program is free and open to the public. To chat during the program and contribute your perspective, you will need a YouTube account with a Gmail email address prior to the program. If you do not have a YouTube account, click here for a step-by-step tutorial on creating a YouTube account.

About The Panelists

Sonja Gantt (Moderator)

Sonja Gantt is the executive director of the CMS Foundation – the non-profit fundraising partner of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.. She brings to the job a deep knowledge of the Charlotte area, having served the majority of her thirty-year media career as a journalist covering Mecklenburg County and the surrounding region. Gantt’s extensive community service over the years supports her role as leader of the foundation, which works closely with local corporations, foundations and community groups.

Gantt’s journalism career included stints at WBTW, WBTV, WGN and WCNC. Her reporting has been celebrated with numerous awards including a Mid-South Regional Emmy in 2011.

As executive director of the CMS Foundation, Gantt manages the organization’s staff and fundraising strategy and oversees its programmatic focus areas. She also serves as a member of the school district’s executive leadership team, a role that gives her deep insight into both the challenges and opportunities within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. This insight helps inform how the CMS Foundation supports the school district and where it focuses philanthropic investments.

Gantt grew up in Charlotte and is a proud graduate of East Mecklenburg High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an active member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the board of directors of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Sonja and her husband Mitch have two children.

Pat Millen

Pat Millen is the Co-Founder and President of E2D, Inc. – Eliminate the Digital Divide. With his family, he created E2D as a non-profit in 2013 to address digital inclusion imbalances existing within low-income families in the Charlotte region.

Since its inception, E2D has provided digital solutions for nearly 12,000 families. E2D’s “Re-Image CLT” Computer Refurbishment Labs hire, train and employ over 60 high school students to provide the bulk of the work necessary to rebuild corporately retired laptops. Re-Image CLT’s West Charlotte HS Lab won the 2018 Blue Diamond Award for IT Workforce Development and Innovation.

For 24 years prior to founding E2D, Mr. Millen owned and managed a successful international sports marketing agency that specialized in the sport of soccer. Mr. Millen is a Charlotte native who grew up in New England. For the past 30 years, he has lived in Davidson, NC with the Co-Founders of E2D: wife Eileen Keeley and their 3 children – Paddy (22), Franny (20) and Sam (15).

Natalie Chanel Jones

Natalie Chanel Jones is an artist, small business owner and a Visual Arts Specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She has ten years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. She received her B.F.A. degree from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia and her M.A. degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

During the summer months, Natalie travels to different countries to learn about different ethnic cultural practices and the different textile and artistic traditions that have been passed down over time. During her traveling journey, she has developed a deep passion for observing, photographing and meeting different people from all over the world. She has photographed people and cultural traditions in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and India. Some of her photographs can be found in two published books entitled: Las Tradicionales Viven by Ñawpa Yachayninchiskunaqa Kawsanmi (2018) and Heirs’ Property in the African American Community by Anderson Jones (cover art-2013).

Currently, she is working on a photography project that sheds light on the murders of black men at the hands of law enforcement and spotlighting highly intelligent black males in high schools throughout the Charlotte public school system.

Franchone Bey

Franchone Bey is a creative spirit in all aspects of the arts. Whether it’s writing, singing, dancing, painting, or theatrical performance, she is all in! Bey has an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She received master’s degrees in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT and in Strategic Communications from American University in Washington, DC. Bey has a passion for education and considers herself an eternal student. Her love for writing was recognized early and encouraged by her parents. Today that love for writing manifests in her spoken word poetry. She also teaches courses in creative writing, literature and film.

Janeen Bryant

Janeen Bryant An advocate and catalyst for building community capacity since 2005, Janeen Bryant is an intersectional educator, facilitator, trainer, and agitator. She currently serves as Director of Operations for CREED-NC, Center for Racial Equity in Education in North Carolina. A graduate of Davidson College with a B.A. in Anthropology, she completed her Master of Science degree in Leadership and Management while serving as the Vice President of Education at Levine Museum of the New South. Ms. Bryant is known widely as a facilitator and community-centered program developer both regionally and nationally. In 2015 as Regional Director: South, for Leadership for Educational Equity she directly engaged with teachers, parents and community leaders to use their voice directly influencing decision-makers and ultimately changing the reality of our education system.

After launching her consultancy Facilitate Movement, she serves as a community engagement specialist and catalyst for building organizational capacity.

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