All’s well that ends well, as they say.
In the case of two young girls who made national headlines after a photo of them went viral, all appears to have ended well.
In a viral photo, the girls were snapped so desperate for internet access to do online schoolwork that they sat outside a California Taco Bell on their laptops.
The image circulated widely on social media in the last fortnight after being shared on Twitter by state Senator Kevin de Leon, and put a spotlight on educational disparity caused by the so-called “digital divide”.
The girls sat cross-legged on a concrete walkway using small laptop devices outside the store as workers wearing face masks gaze at them. The restaurant is in the agricultural community of Salinas, not far from Silicon Valley.
“Two students sit outside a Taco Bell to use Wi-Fi so they can 'go to school' online,” Mr de Leon said on Twitter.
“This is California, home to Silicon Valley... but where the digital divide is as deep as ever.”
He added 40 per cent of Latinos in the state lack internet access, in the tweet which had since been shared more than 27,000 times.
A GoFundMe campaign started by a local woman to help the two schoolgirls and their family began raising thousand of dollars, quickly surpassing the original fundraising goal of $20,000.
But soon came under scrutiny over where the money was going, including a warning from the girls’ school district.
Organiser Jackie Lopez was forced to defend the fundraising page after directing the funds via a third-party accountant.
In an update to the page this week, which had now disabled new donations, Ms Lopez lamented the skepticism and said police had cleared her of any fraudulent behaviour in her role of organising the funds.
She claimed the girl’s mother, Juana, was unable to immediately set up a bank account due to outdated identification.
“Due to the fact that Monterey County Supervisor District 1 accused me of fraud, and making this campaign for my own personal gain Juana will now receive 100% of her funds directly via her sister’s bank account instead of using an accountant,” she wrote in an update to the GoFundMe page this week.
“This beautiful thing that happened for this family is being overshadowed by the local officials, the girls’ school district, local residents and the local media’s continued uproar.”
In a post on Thursday, GoFundMe praised the actions of Ms Lopez for helping to raise nearly US$150,000 (AU$201,000) for the family, who reportedly lived in a one-bedroom apartment and faced eviction this month.
“Jackie Lopez was able to track down the family with help from neighbours. That's when she discovered their single mother of three, Juana, is an essential worker who picks berries, sells flowers, and never takes a day off to support her girls,” the organisation said.
“With help from thousands of generous donors, Jackie has raised nearly $150,000 to put the family in a hotel until they can find a more permanent home.”
A GoFundMe employee, Jenny Perillo, confirmed to The Californian last week it was working with Ms Lopez to secure the money for the family and verify the accounts.
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