Reflecting on 2020 accomplishments and serving our communities

Craig Unruh
December 28, 2020
Broadband Access and Affordability, Community Impact

Reflecting on 2020 accomplishments and serving our communities

What are the qualities that define a community? Unity, commitment, and adaptability – all values, when woven together, describe the values our teams work hard to uphold, in and outside the company.

As 2020 comes to an end, we remain steadfast in our commitment to be there for friends, families, coworkers and neighbors. Whether it’s addressing social and economic barriers or empowering those particularly affected by the pandemic, we continue to collaborate with civic and non-profit organizations to provide our communities with the resources they need.

When it comes to racial inequality; it cannot be solved overnight. To do our part, we continue to actively reevaluate how to make a positive impact. Our $10 million commitment to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities is just one of the many ways we are helping to combat long-standing social inequities.

While the homework gap has existed for decades, COVID-19 has brought national awareness to the issue. Although America’s networks have performed well during the pandemic, many rural and low-income families don’t have access to internet needed to work and learn. We believe in the equality of education and connection is at our core. And now that the classroom has gone digital, we are refocusing our efforts to expand student connectivity.

It is vital we continue to support each other through the COVID-19 pandemic to emerge stronger than ever. From opening opportunity’s doors to closing technology gaps, I invite you to read below and learn more about our journey to building a resilient community.


Craig Unruh

Leveling the playing field: changing barriers to opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to rapidly change the ways we live and work. So, in a time not short on challenges, how do we change barriers to opportunities? We level the playing field.

  • Closing the homework connectivity gap is a top national priority, and I’m proud that AT&T continues to do its part to keep students connected to their teachers. Recently, we introduced a new education initiative that will build on our efforts and move us closer to closing both the homework gap and the home connectivity gap. And we aren’t stopping there. We also announced a new $10 million contribution and collaboration with Connected Nation that will provide free internet connectivity and devices to underserved communities across the country. Read more about these efforts here.
  • As the pandemic continues to force schools to rely heavily on remote learning, disconnected students are not just missing homework – they are missing critical learning. The federal Lifeline program – a program intended to help make telecommunications services more affordable for low-income Americans – can and should help address these urgent connectivity needs. But first, we need to bring the program into the 21st century. Learn how that can happen.
  • Since 2016, AT&T has been working with YearUp to close the so-called ‘opportunity divide.’ The program works to ensure young adults gain skills, experiences and support needed to reach their potential. That’s why we’ve committed to hosting 200 YearUp interns by 2022. Learn more here.

Supporting equality and upward mobility for underserved communities

At AT&T, we believe each of us has a role to identify and address racial inequality wherever it exists. Many actions can yield positive changes. However, it is not a one size fits all approach. Here’s what we’re doing to make a difference:

  • Calling all innovators! Ready to improve our communities? AT&T is collaborating with Nex Cubed to support technology development and entrepreneurship at HBCUs across the US through the Nex Cubed HBCU Founder’s Program. The program inspires students to pursue entrepreneurship related to key social determinants including real estate, education, financial services, and digital health. Student sign up and more program information can be found here.
  • As part of our $10 million commitment to create economic opportunity and foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities, AT&T will be offering nearly 2,300 scholarships to online learning academies Udacity and Coursera. The scholarships – valued around $1.5 million – will be distributed through our Believe initiative. Read more here.
  • Be sure to watch HBO’s Between the World and Me. Based on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ #1 New York Times bestseller, and later adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater, the special combines elements of that production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book. Watch free episodes here.

Local Community Engagement Stories

We’re also focused locally on our Missouri communities helping with pandemic relief and longer-term economic empowerment. Here are just a few of many examples:

  • AT&T donated $125,000 to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis in 2020. A $50,000 donation supported the Urban League’s food and toiletries giveaways as part of COVID relief efforts. A $75,0000 donation was part of AT&T’s economic empowerment campaign supporting the Urban League’s Save our Sisters program and Women’s Business Center.
  • To say “thank you” to our local heroes, AT&T collaborated with several local organizations to provide more than $100,000 in free meals to healthcare workers and first responders in the St. Louis metropolitan area. $50,000 was delivered to the Missouri Nurses Foundation to purchase restaurant gift cards for nurses in COVID units, Medical ICUs, Emergency Departments and Pediatric ICUs.1 Nearly $13,000 in restaurant gift cards was delivered to Environmental Service workers at Mercy Hospital. And, an additional $50,000 was delivered to the St. Louis Police Foundation as part of a robust meals program to build morale among first responders in St. Louis City and County. The efforts also provided a needed boost to local restaurants in the area. To top it off, AT&T employees delivered 400 personal notes of gratitude to our frontline workers as we demonstrated that AT&T Believes in St. Louis. To read the full press release, please click here.
  • Social Justice and Economic Empowerment: A focus on our $29,000 investment in KC Common Good. Through our Believe Kansas City initiative, we turned to a newcomer in the philanthropic world to strengthen their brand in the Kansas City metropolitan area. With a focus on Social Justice and Economic Empowerment among underserved communities, KC Common Good – established in 2018 by American – Public Square at Jewell, seeks to give all members of the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Community access to a successful future by increasing hope and opportunity. The organization convenes people and organizations in order to address the root causes of violence and create an environment where all citizens can live safely, securely and have access to real opportunities. The organization is built on a values-based foundation with an emphasis on Access, Accountability, Community, Engagement, Hope, Opportunity, Ownership, Respect, Support, Transparency and Trust.
  • At AT&T, we respond when first responders need help. COVID-19, civil unrest, wildfires, and hurricanes only added to the daily challenges and stress first responders and their families faced each day. So, AT&T stepped up to support agencies that first responders support. AT&T donated $13,000 to Guns N Hoses for events in Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City. The events raise money to provide immediate financial assistance to the spouses and children of first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice for our safety in the line of duty. Guns N Hoses raises nearly $2 million annually in Missouri for the families of first responders who give their life in the line of duty.
  • AT&T, Kansas City Fire Department, Mattie Rhodes Center and Truman Medical Centers teamed up to provide free meals: With financial support from AT&T, staffers at the Mattie Rhodes Center were able to distribute over 300 meals, donated by Operation BBQ Relief & Kansas City Fire Department and made by The Classic Cup. Operation BBQ Relief has been providing meals to first responders like the Kansas City Fire Department, to help them throughout the pandemic. The Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department (KCFD) requested to have those meals donated to the Mattie Rhodes Center to serve those in need instead.
  • AT&T’s Believe St. Louis initiative remained an active and vibrant part of the community, despite a pandemic that limited in-person volunteerism. AT&T Technology Development employees delivered STEM workshops as part of St. Louis University’s Education Day, our Mobility team held a hiring event with the Urban League, and our Security Architecture team led a pilot program to install IoT enabled little libraries in underserved areas in collaboration with the St. Louis Police Foundation. In 2020, employees participated in over 40 projects or events, and since the program’s inception in 2019, almost 2,000 employees have volunteered, and we’ve made contributions of over $1.8M.

1 The AT&T Foundation contributed $47,621 and the Company contributed $2,379 of the $50,000.