At the start of 2023, people who live in a small Ohio village along the Pennsylvania border enjoyed the peace of anonymity. Natives of East Palestine could easily identify visitors: those who failed to pronounce the last syllable like “teen.” This small community looked and felt like many other small communities in the Midwest.
That changed with the derailment of a freight train on the eastern edge of the village in early February and the fire fueled by vinyl chloride that followed. Now this rural community must address not only any needs they had before, but also a host of new ones they never could have anticipated.
Science has become an involuntary focus here. Environmental and health questions raised by the derailment are still being asked and answered. But Center of Science and Industry (COSI), an Ohio organization focused on science, technology and industry that had been an earlier partner with the local library, has returned. They’re offering East Palestine a reminder of the good which science can also offer, and AT&T joined them.
“Governor DeWine is committed to supporting the village for the long-term,” said Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Anne Vogel. “We appreciate the assistance offered by COSI and AT&T, which will help students continue to learn over the summer while Ohio EPA continues our work overseeing the clean-up from the derailment.”
As part of a community-wide event in May, COSI provided a free STEM kit called a Learning Lunchbox for every child and family in the village.
“A few months ago, the world watched as East Palestine courageously struggled through a horrific environmental disaster,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, President and CEO of COSI. “Now, through an unparalleled partnership of government, education, non-profit and civic-minded institutions, residents of East Palestine – kiddoes and adults alike – enjoyed some fun, educational, entertaining experiences: from science to art, and music to food, to support them and show that they are in the hearts and minds of the great state of Ohio. I could not be more proud that COSI was part of this ray of sunshine and hope for a resilient, and deserving community.”
As COSI revived their outreach in East Palestine, AT&T began a collaboration with them. AT&T Ohio President Molly Kocour Boyle joined COSI Vice President of External Affairs Stephen White and Ohio EPA Director Vogel in East Palestine to give something new to COSI that they could include as part of their local delivery: 250 Chromebook computers from nonprofit device provider Human-I-T.
“Not everyone has access to the opportunities that connectivity brings. That digital divide is made far more challenging by the sudden, unforeseen calamity that happened here,” said Kocour Boyle. “As families here move forward, these devices can provide educational connectivity that benefits their children. Every neighborhood has unique needs but bridging the digital divide in East Palestine means playing a part in this community’s recovery.”
In addition to providing Chromebooks for COSI’s local educational initiatives, a $10,000 AT&T Foundation contribution was also presented to the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber Foundation. Those dollars will be used for programs supporting the East Palestine area, including assistance and events to benefit local businesses and first responders.