Franny Millen, Hough High Senior, Wins the Prudential Spirit of Community Award
Hough High School senior and Davidson resident, Franny Millen, has been selected as a state winner of a Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the largest youth community service recognition program in the country.
Created in 1995 by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the program honors middle and high school students for their outstanding service to others. Franny was recognized for her work in helping create, as a seventh grader, of the nonprofit organization “Eliminate the Digital Divide” (E2D).
Franny recalled, “I noticed that all of our homework seemed to be online, but I knew that not all of my classmates had home computers, so how could they get theirs done? It didn’t seem fair.” A conversation with her parents, Pat Millen and Eileen Keeley, got her thinking about how to close this “digital divide.” With parental support, she developed a plan to provide free, refurbished computers to students who didn’t have a home computer, or the software and broadband access needed to use one.
The organization’s mission is to ensure that all students have affordable access to essential at-home technology, and digital literacy training to support academic success and prepare students for college, careers, and beyond.
Beginning in 2013, Franny identified 54 local students whose families had no home computer, and she helped raise money to furnish them the computers and the technology they needed. Then, when Lowe’s Home Improvement offered to give Franny 500 decommissioned laptops per year, she and others who worked with her decided to expand the project beyond Davidson to 140 public schools in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. To date, E2D has provided more than 4,100 laptop computers, digital access, and technology training to students.
The organization has received more than $218,000 in gifts and grants to support its efforts, and Franny’s father, Pat, works full-time as president and co-founder of the organization. In addition to the Prudential award, E2D has received several other local and national awards for its digital inclusion accomplishments.
In addition to soliciting funding from area businesses and individuals, Franny organized an annual “Mega Lemonade Day” for elementary students to set up lemonade stands all over the county to raise E2D funds. E2D has also created two “technology academies” at three high schools where its student employees are paid twice the minimum wage to refurbish donated computers, help new recipients get online, and obtain training in technology skills.
All the Prudential Spirit of Community Award winners, who represent every state and six other countries, are invited to travel to Washington, D.C., from April 28 to May 2 with a parent to enjoy a weekend of honors. Their itinerary will include a tour of the city, meetings with their senators, opportunities to share their experiences and ideas, a dinner cruise on the Potomac River, and a gala recognition dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Franny and the other state honorees will each receive a gift of $1,000, plus $1,000 for the charity of their choice, and a silver medallion. Ten national honorees will be announced at that time to receive an additional award of $5,000, a gold medallion, and a crystal trophy for their schools. The other North Carolina winner this year is William Winslow, a 12-year-old from Raleigh, who organized an annual food drive and school gardens.
Franny will be leaving Davidson in August to enroll as a first-year student at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. However, she said E2D is in her father’s capable hands, and she will help out from afar when possible.
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.