MCKEES ROCKS, Pa. (KDKA) – Steeler legend and Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis helped close the digital divide at Sto-Rox High School Tuesday.

The pandemic put a spotlight on a serious problem for kids in underserved communities. They have no computers or internet access. Now, many efforts are underway to close the digital divide. Bettis’ appearance Tuesday is part of that effort.

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It won’t go far towards closing the digital divide, but 50 students at the Sto-Rox High School now own brand new Chromebooks. But it’s just a small part of the need in underserved communities.

(Photo: KDKA)

“This is what’s been referred to as the digital divide. It’s something that’s been here for a long time. But we really never addressed the urgency until COVID,” said Josh Whiteside with the Education Partnership.

Whiteside heads an organization that assists low-income school districts in southwest Pennsylvania. He says the digital divide in those districts is hard to believe.

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“In COVID, we knew that as many as 50 percent of students throughout our partner schools, that’s 55,000 students, those students did not have adequate devices or internet access at home,” he said.

So 50 more students got laptops today and shook the hand of a football legend. But Jerome Bettis admits, this just puts a small dent in the problem.

“No one person can do it alone. No one foundation can do it alone. It’s important that we all pool our resources together and create the benefit that I think — it’s the right thing to do,” said Bettis.

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Getting a laptop is just one part of the problem. These students also need access to high-speed internet. It’s an issue that’s being dealt with by local communities and internet providers.