Florida Attorney General Joins AT&T and Scholarship Program to Bring Cyber Safety Lesson to Dunedin Students

April 30, 2012 | Dunedin, Fla. – The sixth grade class at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Dunedin had some very special guests today in their third period math class. Attorney General Pam Bondi and her staff, and Marshall Criser III, president of AT&T Florida, visited Our Lady of Lourdes today for a hands-on cyber safety event.

The event, designed to help students protect their online information, came at the right time. Each sixth grade student at Our Lady of Lourdes was issued an Apple iPad at the beginning of the school year as a pilot program, and they often use the internet to complete assignments.

Marshall Criser III, President of AT&T Florida, joins Attorney General Pam Bondi, OLL parent Carrie Hart, Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill, scholarship recipients and Kathy Bogataj, Principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School for the cyber safety event. Scholarship recipients pictured are Jacob Whiteley, Mikayla Whiteley, and Christina Chandler.

Marshall Criser III, President of AT&T Florida, joins Attorney General Pam Bondi, OLL parent Carrie Hart, Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill, scholarship recipients and Kathy Bogataj, Principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School for the cyber safety event. Scholarship recipients pictured are Jacob Whiteley, Mikayla Whiteley, and Christina Chandler.

The school hosted the event as a part of its participation in the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program, Step Up For Students. The program enables low-income families in Florida to send their children to a school of choice, all thanks to contributions from corporations like AT&T. Approximately 32 students attend Our Lady of Lourdes on a Step Up scholarship, and event guests had the opportunity to hear from one family that benefits from the program.

Carrie Hart, a parent of two Step Up scholars, spoke to the group about her family’s experience with the scholarship program and mentioned that she would not have the opportunity to send her children to Our Lady of Lourdes without Step Up For Students. Hart, a single parent, said that she appreciates the close-knit atmosphere at Our Lady of Lourdes and referred to the school as the “village” that helps her raise her son and daughter. “My family is so grateful for the opportunities Step Up For Students and its donors have given us,” said Carrie Hart. “Our Lady of Lourdes has been a perfect fit for my children, and the teachers, staff and other families at the school have all helped to give them the best educational experience possible.”

AT&T, a longtime supporter of the Step Up For Students program, offered the event on Monday as part of their continued commitment to education and keeping youth safe online. The Attorney General’s Office joined forces with AT&T to focus on cyber safety education, an issue that both parties consider a top priority.

During the interactive presentation, the Attorney General’s Office taught the sixth grade class how to protect their personal information on the Internet and how to recognize and avoid online predators. The group also discussed the increasingly prevalent cyber bullying problem that many adolescents and teens now face.

“Today’s youth have more access to the Internet than ever before, which is a good thing,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “However, we need to make sure we are taking every measure possible to educate our young people on the best ways to protect themselves from online danger. Through education, we are equipping children with the tools they need to safely navigate the Internet.”

During the event, AT&T announced their most recent contribution of $3.5 million to Step Up For Students, bringing the total amount the company has contributed to the scholarship program to $15.7 million since joining as a corporate partner 2003. In total, AT&T’s contributions have funded scholarships for more than 3,900 low-income children.

“As a part of our continuing support of Step Up For Students, we are proud to provide an educational event for students that promotes online safety,” said Marshall Criser III, AT&T Florida President. “Through our involvement with the program since 2003, AT&T has helped more than 3,900 children across the state to find the right school environment for their unique learning needs. We believe our contribution is an investment in the futures of these students.”

“As a part of our continuing support of Step Up For Students, we are proud to provide an educational event for students that promotes online safety. Through our involvement with the program since 2003, AT&T has helped more than 3,900 children across the state to find the right school environment for their unique learning needs. We believe our contribution is an investment in the futures of these students.”Marshall Criser III, AT&T Florida President

In the 2011-12 school year, Step Up For Students provided more than 39,000 scholarships to students from low-income families throughout Florida.

“It is amazing to see what these students can do when they have the opportunity to shine in the learning environment that fits the way they learn,” Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill said. “Thanks to our generous partners like AT&T, we see more and more success stories every school year. AT&T’s commitment to these children is commendable, and we are grateful for their support.”

Qualifying families are able to choose from approximately 1,200 private schools, or can utilize a transportation scholarship to attend an out-of-district public school. The scholarships are funded by corporations that redirect certain types of Florida tax liabilities to Step Up For Students in exchange for dollar-for-dollar tax credit. Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2001, the corporate community has contributed more than $900 million to provide educational opportunities for Florida’s underserved families.

About AT&T’s Internet Safety Programs:

AT&T started its educational efforts targeted toward Internet safety a few years ago and currently works with organizations that promote online safety education and awareness, including Enough is Enough, iKeepSafe Internet Safety Coalition, Connect Safely and the Ad Council’s Internet Safety Coalition. Each organization strives to educate parents and children on how to be safe on the Internet.

In September 2008, AT&T and iKeepSafe launched an online safety educational program with DARE officers at schools in various parts of the country, targeting children grades 1-5 as well as parents, teachers and local community organizations.  More than 3,200 officers have been trained on the program.

In 2009, AT&T continued its work with iKeepSafe to launch The Privacy and Online Reputation Project. iKeepSafe held training sessions at the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) annual conference and distributed over 2,000 sets of curricula and presentations. ASCA promotes the project, working with state counselor associations to do so. Approximately 4,200 counselors and educators have sought out the materials for use in their schools.

AT&T holds a leadership role with the Family Online Safety Institute, http://www.fosi.org, which works with fellow leaders in technology, public policy and government to make the online world safer for kids and their families by identifying and promoting best practices, tools and methods in the field of online safety, that also preserve free expression.

About Step Up For Students

Step Up For Students is a nonprofit organization that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income Florida students. The scholarship program was created by the Florida Legislature in 2001 and is funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contributions. For more information, visit www.StepUpForStudents.org.

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