It took me about five months to be able to purchase a wireless Internet box for my home. Initially, I did not worry too much about having Internet at home, but when I noticed that my sister was turning in assignments late at her community college, and thus lagging at the back of the class, I decided the investment in Internet was necessary.
Unfortunately, that Internet box only survived about two months in my home after it was accidentally dropped in water. Now, almost two months later, I am still attempting to save the money ($100) to reconnect my family to the Internet.
In the meantime, my sister is often faced with the decision to pay $2 for an hour of Internet, use the local library’s free Wi-Fi, or head out to McDonald’s for “free” Internet. This often ends in her deciding to stay home and instead completing assignments with paper and pencil and my 3G phone for any necessary research.
The problem is always the lack of money. The library is the only place we can find free Internet, but given the hours of operation, it’s not the most reliable place.
Recently, the Los Angeles Public Libraries were able to expand their hours of operation to 10 a.m.–8 p.m. (on Mon. and Wed.), 12–8 p.m. (on Tues. and Thurs.) and 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (on Sat). Priscilla works throughout the week from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and goes to school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:15–8:15 p.m. This leaves very little time for her to visit the library and when she is able to, it is usually only to print an assignment she managed to finish elsewhere.
Because the nearby Internet cafés (three in total) usually close by 8 p.m. as well, the final option is the McDonalds about five blocks away from our home. To save money, she (and I, on the occasions that I need to finish reports for work) purchases Cokes or apple pies in exchange for the Internet service. And if she lifts her head up while working on her assignments, she will also note a good five or six other youth with fries and Cokes next to their laptops.
Michelle Lozano Villegas is the outreach coordinator at IDEPSCA.
Original photo by Flickr user brianc