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Case Study

Bridging Opportunity Gaps with STEM Programming and Mobile Hotspots in New York’s Westchester County

The STEM Alliance
New York

The STEM Alliance serves as a resource hub for STEM enrichment opportunities and digital equity initiatives throughout New York’s Westchester County. Through their efforts to bridge the digital divide, the nonprofit has reached over 1,000 individuals with digital training and mobile hotspot Internet since 2020.

Students Using Mobile Hotspots for Nonprofits like The STEM Alliance

Situated just north of Manhattan in the Hudson Valley, Westchester County is the seventh largest county in New York state, with a population of around one million people. At least 90,000 of them are living in poverty, according to recent census data.

The county scores highly in both broadband speed and number of broadband service providers, meaning the vast majority of Westchester residents have nothing to complain about when it comes to Internet connectivity. Yet thousands of kids and adults there still have no reliable means of getting online so they can thrive in a digitally connected world.

While digital equity was not a founding principal of The STEM Alliance, it became a top priority for the 501(c) 3 nonprofit when the organization’s leaders realized how quickly everything was shifting online – and staying there – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


According to Margaret Käufer, President and Chief Visionary Officer at The STEM Alliance, “Our origin story is founded on building a network of STEM learning opportunities and promoting the power of enrichment to bridge systemic gaps in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Through workshops for families and after school enrichment programing such as robotics, Tinkering Nights, and Girls in STEM, The STEM Alliance inspires our next generation of doctors, medical technicians, chemists, developers, engineers, and mathematicians by ensuring equal access to STEM learning opportunities for all kids.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of STEM occupations will grow almost twice as fast as non-stem occupations from 2021 to 2031. STEM jobs pay significantly better than non-stem jobs too. According to their report: “Median annual wages as of May 2021 were $95,420 for STEM occupations, compared to $40,120 for non-STEM occupations.”

On a Mission to Support STEM Enrichment Opportunities for All

“The research is very very clear that a lot of the achievement gap is actually driven by an opportunity gap,” said Käufer.

In today’s digital economy, the opportunity gap grows even wider for anyone without reliable Internet access – a fact that became all too clear to Käufer and the rest of the team when the pandemic hit. They had parents they couldn’t reach via email, kids who couldn’t access STEM programming online, and partner nonprofits who couldn’t help their low or no-income community members continue their tech training online.

“One of the first things we had to solve was Internet access. We received a very large donation to launch this work, and we were determined to serve our community on all three levels: Internet access, devices, and the skills to use them,” said Kaufer.


The STEM Alliance modeled its new Digital Equity Now program on Tech Goes Home of Boston, MA, an award-winning program that has served over 22,000 learners of all ages in the past five years. Each family or individual that participates in the Tech Goes Home program earns a Chromebook or iPad and 12 months of Internet service if needed, after completing digital skills training. Tech Goes Home of Chattanooga did much the same thing, using mobile hotspots and tech training to strengthen community in Tennessee’s Hamilton County.

“That type of holistic approach was the only way we felt we could proceed,” stated Käufer. “And to accomplish it, we knew we needed a mobile hotspot solution.” She researched hotspot Internet providers and found Mobile Citizen, a provider committed to making reliable mobile Internet for nonprofits available at an affordable price.

Mobile Citizen offers hotspots and up to 5G LTE mobile Internet service with unlimited data exclusively to schools, libraries, social welfare agencies, and nonprofits like The STEM Alliance for $120 per year.

The STEM Alliance Classroom Using Mobile Hotspots for Nonprofits

Getting Connected with Mobile Hotspots

Since 2020, The STEM Alliance has deployed 600 mobile hotspot devices from Mobile Citizen and served roughly 1,200 people. Convenience and cost were top priorities, but the ability to connect people quickly became the mobile hotspot’s most winning feature.

Käufer said The STEM Alliance leans on Mobile Citizen technology and customer service to keep their Digital Equity Now program running smoothly. First, Mobile Citizen Internet for nonprofits offers reliable coverage throughout the county; second, they provide equitable high-speed bandwidth without data limitations; and finally, Mobile Citizen’s convenient ordering system allows the program to supply nonprofit partner training sessions with mobile hotspot devices that are ready to connect as soon as they’re in trainees’ hands. For Käufer, the Mobile Citizen solution is beautiful in its simplicity. That way any funding they receive goes to what Käufer calls “proactive poverty prevention” rather than hotspot administration.

Since the beginning of 2022, the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has provided The STEM Alliance yet another way to help Digital Equity Now trainees get connected. This new program replaced the short-term Emergency Broadband Benefit program to help low-income households pay for broadband service and connected devices.

Käufer explained that while fixed Internet through ACP is great for long term connectivity, it’s not always a good match for all individuals. For one thing, it can take up to two months for the ACP credit to appear on a resident’s bill, plus new clients might need to wait for installation. For individuals in transition, including anyone recently incarcerated, people experiencing housing insecurity, or newly arrived immigrants, mobile hotspot devices are often the better option. They provide private high-speed Internet wherever the individual happens to be. Hotspots are also ideal when time is a factor. As an example, one of The STEM Alliance’s nonprofit partners runs a healthcare talent pipeline – when they have someone ready to do online skills training, they don’t have time to wait.

Mobile Hotspots for Nonprofits, Schools, Libraries, and Social Welfare Agencies

The STEM Alliance believes that, “For economically fragile individuals, an online connection is a point of access to improved education, healthcare access, financial planning, and workforce development.” Mobile Citizen agrees. The mobile Internet provider is committed to digital equity, inclusion, and ending the digital divide by supporting organizations like The STEM Alliance across the country with low-cost Internet.

To discuss nonprofit hotspot opportunities for your organization, please contact the experts in the Mobile Citizen Customer Service Center at 877-216-9603.