WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
For the past two months, Joe McFerrin II has been looking for Wi-Fi hot spots. They were as precious to him as personal protective equipment was for nurses.
McFerrin is the president and CEO of Rosemary Anderson High School and the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit in North Portland. For the 600 or so teenagers under McFerrin's charge, the cancellation of school wasn't welcome news. They were sent home to unstable situations and deep poverty. Some are homeless.
So McFerrin has spent much of the pandemic trying to finagle distance learning for kids in precarious places. Even he was surprised at how few of his students had internet access—and then his shopping expedition was met with a Wi-Fi hot spot shortage.
In an interview with WW editor Mark Zusman, McFerrin describes his work on behalf of vulnerable teens—and explains how he's coping, as a famous extrovert, with isolation. The answer: patios and back fences. "I'm turning into That Guy," he says.