Stuck in the Digital Divide

Stuck in the Digital Divide

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Ramirez

By Jennifer Garcia

There are nine of us living in a two-bedroom apartment near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. In total, it’s five adults and four children. I sleep in the living room, which is next to the kitchen, with my 14-year-old sister.  Three of us are in school, which during quarantine means learning online.  

To say it’s difficult to be in school is an understatement. Here’s what it’s like:

During the day, my brother, a fourth-grader, and my sister, an eighth-grader, use the bedrooms to take their classes. While my parents and uncle are at work, my aunt takes care of her one-year-old daughter and my two-year-old brother in the living room. The house is loud, and I usually have to leave to find a quiet place to connect to the internet. 

I returned to college last fall after taking a few years off to work. I’m 22-years-old, and it’s my first year at Los Angeles City College. I’m majoring in political science and hope to go to law school someday. While I took a break from school for almost two years, I decided to take 13 units this semester and become a full-time student again. I thought, mistakenly, that I would have more time to study because of the pandemic.

Since there’s nowhere for me to work at home, I have to look elsewhere. I go to a park and just cross my fingers that I can get a good hot spot on my phone. I stay up late and do my homework when everyone in the house has gone to bed. 

Before restaurants shut down again in November, I relied on coffee shops to connect to Zoom. I used Yelp to narrow down my decisions, to find out whether there was outdoor dining and a stable Wi-Fi connection. For months, I’ve struggled to find enough places to study because Los Angeles County only allowed outdoor seating. Coffee shops around Los Angeles are filled with students just like me. Spotty internet at the cafés is a constant issue and often affects my classes. My grades are suffering. Not to mention how much money I spend on coffee or food when I sit down to take a class or do homework. With limited seating available, it is hard to get away without buying something to eat.  

The situation keeps getting worse and there’s not much of an end in sight, with winter and spring sessions still scheduled to be online. All I can do is just keep pushing forward and hope for the best. 

This story was produced by Boyle Heights Beat and is part of a collaborative project “Behind Our Masks” that includes content from young journalists from YR Media, Boyle Heights BeatThe kNOw and Coachella Unincorporated.

From education, to family, to employment, the pandemic has deeply impacted the younger generation, particularly young people of color. Click here for more stories on how they’re trying to cope.