Verizon Funds Technology Centers to Help Improve Literacy and Reduce School Dropout Rates in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - To help improve literacy and reduce school dropout rates in Puerto Rico, Verizon Foundation will provide a $1.2 million grant to establish literacy and technology centers at 10 public schools ranked low in academic achievement.

ASPIRA, Inc. de Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization devoted to education and leadership development in Puerto Rico and the United States, will establish and oversee the centers.

The grant was announced today at Puerto Rico Telephone, a Verizon affiliate, in a ceremony attended by Deputy Secretary of Education, Dr. Pablo Rivera, and representatives of Verizon, ASPIRA and Puerto Rico Telephone.

"The schools were selected because they need the support of a comprehensive computer-based literacy program to improve academic performance and prevent at risk students from dropping out," said Hilda V. Maldonado, executive director for ASPIRA. According to Puerto Rico's Department of Education, nearly half of all students drop out of school before reaching the 12th grade, up by 6.1 percent since 1999.

"Higher literacy rates mean stronger communities, economic growth and a skilled workforce," said Fares F. Salloum, president - International, the Americas for Verizon. "Verizon is committed to supporting programs that use technology to improve education."

The new facilities, to be known as Verizon - ASPIRA Literacy and Technology Centers, will be located at one school in each of Puerto Rico's 10 school districts. Verizon's grant will pay for new computers at each center, software and hardware as well as the salaries of an administrative coordinator and tutors in computer science, mathematics, English and Spanish. Puerto Rico Telephone will provide free high-speed Internet access to each center.

Deputy Secretary of Education, Dr. Rivera, said: "The centers are one example of how educators, government officials and the private sector can partner to help society's greatest resource, our children, reach their full academic potential."

"Verizon's commitment to education in Puerto Rico goes beyond today's $1.2 million grant to ASPIRA," said Jon Slater, president and CEO of Puerto Rico Telephone. "In the last three years alone Verizon and PRT have worked together to establish programs that foster the academic achievement of the island's youth, such as a $1.25 million scholarship program at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, the school visiting program at the Arecibo Observatory, and the technology resource center at the School of Visual Arts."

Five centers will open this year: Esc. José Gualberto Padilla in Arecibo; Esc. Gerardo Sellés Solá in Cayey; Esc. Intermedia Nueva in Ceiba; Esc. Santiago Torres, in Las Piedras and Esc. de la Comunidad Capitanejo in Ponce. The remaining centers are scheduled to open August 2003.

The Verizon - ASPIRA centers will operate weekdays after school. ASPIRA, in coordination with teachers, will monitor the students' progress in class to measure the effectiveness of each center.

Last December Verizon awarded a $75,000 grant to ASPIRA to establish a pilot center at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Middle School in Trujillo Alto. Students participating in the program improved their grades by 47 percent.

"The program works. Eugenio Maria de Hostos is an example of how the centers will help improve literacy in Puerto Rico," said Hilda V. Maldonado, executive director for ASPIRA.

Verizon Foundation

Verizon Foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, bridging the digital divide, enriching communities through technology and creating a skilled work force. The foundation promotes partnerships in technology with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, and the economically and socially disadvantaged. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that encourages Verizon employees to volunteer in their communities and provides matching gifts to nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation on the Internet.

Verizon Communications

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.1 million access line equivalents and 30.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 241,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.


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