Above: Garfield High freshmen Andrea Sierra, left, and Ana Vargas exhibit mobile ‘hot spots’ and ChromeBooks that will help them stay connected outside of the school day.

Nearly 9,000 L.A. Unified students are receiving mobile “hot spot” devices they can use to connect to the Internet any time, anywhere as part of the Sprint 1Million program.

The telecommunications giant is working with its philanthropic wing, the Sprint Foundation, to donate gadgets the size of mobile phones to help as many as a million students nationwide gain connectivity they can use to get ahead in school.

The Sprint-L.A. Unified partnership was formally announced Monday at a ceremony at Garfield High School.

Garfield senior Angel Duran says the ability to get online at home and elsewhere will help him stay on top of college applications.

“This is really all about the future of our communities,” said Kevin Kunkel, Sprint’s regional president for Southern California. “We are aiming to help students stay on top of their assignments and homework with connectivity outside the classroom. In early trial deployments, we have already seen students doing much better in school with better attendance, and teachers are equally excited about the results. With the right tools, nothing can hold these students back.”

The District’s Information Technology Division successfully applied for the Sprint grant and is now partnering with the Division of Instruction to deliver the “hot spot” devices, along with Google ChromeBooks and backpacks funded by voter-approved bond revenue. Students get access to the technology as long as they are in high school.

Acting superintendent Vivian Ekchian praised Sprint and District personnel for moving the program forward.

“We are extremely grateful to Sprint for this generous donation and to our schools, our IT and instructional professionals for working so hard to support our students,” she said. “Access to technology is a critical part of our mission to provide a personalized, high-quality educational experience for every student. And, the Sprint 1Million program is giving so many of our students a critical leg up in their efforts to achieve.”

Garfield High freshmen Andrea Sierra and Ana Vargas were among the 450 students who received devices at the campus this week. They spoke to the crowd on behalf of their fellow students, bravely sharing their own personal stories and showing appreciation for the program.

“We know what it’s like to struggle to have the Internet access we need to complete writing assignments, research projects or interact with our teachers and fellow students,” said Sierra, who plans to pursue a career in law. “We want everyone to know how much this benefits students like us and how thankful we are that there are people looking out for us and helping us do well in school.”

Schools surveyed students to identify those who would benefit most from the program. Qualifying students were enrolled in the program and invited to check out the devices at deployments like the one at Garfield. The District hopes to expand the program to additional students in the coming years.

“This will make my life so much better,” said Garfield senior Angel Duran. “Before now, I didn’t have a way to get Internet access at home, so I had to take the bus super early in the morning or super late at night to get to libraries or other places were I could work on my assignments. Now I won’t have to struggle so much and can complete essays, class projects and interact with my teachers and other students any time and anywhere.”