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Grants will set up Wi-Fi at Konnarock Community Center
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Grants will set up Wi-Fi at Konnarock Community Center

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DAMASCUS, Va. — Two Holston High School teachers will be instrumental in helping to create a Wi-Fi hot spot in the community of Konnarock, Virginia, and paving the way for other public internet locations to be established in Washington County.

“The first location that came to mind for a hot spot is Konnarock,” said Steve Ahn, a science teacher at Holston High School, which was awarded grant funding from United Way of Southwest Virginia, in partnership with Washington County Public Schools and the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, to install the Wi-Fi hot spot at the Konnarock Community Center.

Ahn is the recipient of the grant, along with Logan Childress, an instructional technology specialist and band teacher at Holston High School, and Gabe Long, principal of the school.

“I live in Konnarock, and I’m certain of its accessibility problems,” said Ahn.

“Disadvantaged students have no place to go for wireless if they do not have access in their homes. There is no cell service up there, and the nearest public access, such as a restaurant or library, is either in Damascus or Chilhowie, both of which are more than 20-minute drives away. And many disadvantaged students have transportation issues anyway,” he said.

“As a teacher at Holston High School, I know firsthand that many students have very limited wireless access, and I also witnessed firsthand how these students were left behind this fall when we attempted 100% virtual school.”

Ahn credits Amanda Bailey with the Kiwanis Club of Abingdon for coming up with the idea for the hot spot. Jenna Greene, a former student at the school, will also help with securing donors to expand the project.

A creative idea

A creative plan brainstormed by Ahn and Childress will allow them to use the original grant funds as seed money to establish more local hot spots.

“Our medium-term goal is to use the funds to start up the hot spot then find local donors to cover the month-to-month expenses,” said Ahn.

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Ahn explained that the $1,500 grant money and an additional $1,500 in matching funds from Washington County Public Schools will allow Holston High School to install and maintain the public Wi-Fi hot spot at the Konnarock Community Center. Ahn presented the idea to Konnarock Community Center’s board members Ann Pennington and Brenda Shepherd, who agreed to have the community center host this first Wi-Fi hot spot.

“We all think this will be a win-win situation,” said Ahn.

“The grant will provide hardware to expand the Wi-Fi network already in place at the community center to the outdoor parking lot,” said Ahn. “Access will be free and available in the parking lot of the Konnarock Community Center.

“We are searching for local donors who would be willing to contribute a $100 tax-deductible donation to the operation of the hot spot at the Konnarock Community Center.

“Once 12 donors are secured, we will use the remaining funds from the original grants to start another Wi-Fi hot spot in another limited access area in our region — perhaps Mendota or near South Holston Lake.”

Ahn said the process will start all over again with a search for more local donors to cover operating expenses so that another hot spot can be created.

“The names of donors will be posted on a support board at the hot spots,” he said.

“Once we have those in place, we will start another hot spot with the unspent funds from the original grant. We will then continue the process, potentially indefinitely.

“With our partners in place and the enthusiasm high, installation will begin immediately,” said Ahn.

“And we expect to quickly grow the project into multiple hot spots.”

To learn more about the project or to become a donor, contact Holston High School at 276-739-4000.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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