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$2M grant to Tohono O'odham college promises to improve area Internet access
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$2M grant to Tohono O'odham college promises to improve area Internet access

A $2 million federal grant to Tohono O'odham Community College will be used to improve broadband Internet access near the Sells campus, officials said. The college was one of five awarded $11 million through a program now in its second year. 

The grant comes from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, funded with $268 million as part of President Joe Biden's "Internet for All" initiative. The program directs money to minority-serving colleges and universities from the the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Although the pilot launched in 2021, the first grants awarded by the program were the five included in the $11 million award announced on Friday, federal officials wrote in a press release.

The $2 million Tohono O’odham grant will “directly address the lack of high-speed Internet access, connectivity, adoption and equity at the college and in the surrounding anchor communities on Tohono O’odham Nation,” according to federal officials.

“Internet access and education are two of the greatest equalizers for underserved and at-risk communities,” said U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, whose district includes the vast reservation.

The Democratic congressman said he’s “proud to support” funding for improvements to broadband Internet access, saying it “will enhance computer literacy and promote digital economic development for Southern Arizona."

The Tohono O’odham Community College campus is in Sells, east of Tucson on State Route 80.

The largest portion of the $11 million grant went to Diné College, a public Navajo land-grant college at the center of the Nation in Tsaile, Ariz. $3 million will fund training, technology and internships through the college, which awards associates and bachelors degrees.

The other schools receiving funds are:

  • $2.6 million for Mercy College, a private university near New York City.
  • $2.4 million for Drake State Community and Technical College, which is a historically black college in Huntsville, Ala.
  • $750,000 for Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, a public institution in Okmulgee, Okla., located in the center of Muscogee Nation, a self-governed Native American tribe.

All the grant will “fund Internet access, equipment, and to hire and train information technology personnel,” according to federal officials.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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