Internet inequality exists and it's never been more pronounced for families than during the coronavirus outbreak. When parents are suddenly responsible for teaching their kids at home and desperately need good internet access to do so. And that's why the story of one mom who's been homeschooling her kids in a parking lot during the pandemic is so important to hear right now. Her positivity and ingenuity are an inspiration, which is exactly why Ellen DeGeneres wanted to do something kind for her.
Tawana Brown from South Bend, Indiana has been driving her four kids to a local parking lot every day since their schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As she explained in an interview with TODAY in April, she and her four kids, 10-year-old Tayden, 13-year-old Tyrin, 16-year-old Ta'Myra, and 17-year-old Ta'Nya, drive to a parking lot within range of free WiFi every day. The kids work on their assignments while she works on "keeping the peace" in their crowded minivan.
The family has pay-as-you-go WiFi at their home, and it simply hasn't been enough to keep up with all the school work her kids have been doing. Brown found out about access to free bus WiFi through a tweet from the South Bend school system in March, and has been accessing it every day for a few hours with her kids.
Hanging out in a minivan with four kids for a few hours each day to access WiFi seems like a lot to deal with, but Brown has been staying positive. As she told DeGeneres in an interview on Wednesday, she is looking at the bright side of things. "It's wonderful. It gives us a chance to be together as a family, and it also gives the kids a chance to get their homework and everything done," she said. "I mean, you know, I always made a vow to my children that education was going to be the most important."
This amazing mom's hard work to ensure her kids get their education no matter what inspired the talk show host. So much so that she wanted to help them out and gifted the kids free iPads and headphones to make their homework easier. DeGeneres also let them know that Green Dot Bank would be covering their WiFi bills with $5,000 over the next two years. On top of that, the bank offered the family an additional $20,000 to help out with other costs of living.
The family was grateful, of course, but DeGeneres was quick to remind them that they deserved it. Brown has also been feeding the homeless despite being out of a job herself (she was a kitchen supervisor at her son's school), and has made a point of teaching her kids that "it's important to always give back."
Tawana Brown is absolutely an inspiration and her story acts as a reminder that there are a whole bunch of ways people might be struggling right now and help can sometimes come from the most surprising places.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.