PHS students help their peers, one byte at a time.
By: Peter McElroy
For the first time next year, Susana Rodriguez will be able to complete all her homework where it should be done at home.
A junior at Princeton High School, Susana is one of the first to benefit from a local charity, dubbed CompuKids, which is run by fellow PHS students Andrew Bergman, Dan Blumenthal and Matt Grosshans, and which helps students from low-income families purchase computers. All three boys will be sophomores in the fall.
The three boys installed Susana’s new computer in the kitchen of her Karin Court townhouse in late June. They demonstrated how to use the computer and software, and explained how to get affordable Internet access.
Susana’s new Dell is the first home computer her family has ever owned. Last year she tried to finish her assignments on school computers during free periods. When she finished only half of an assignment, a biology project for which she needed pictures and information on green beans, she received an F.
Her parents would never have purchased a computer from the manufacturer, Susana said. But they were drawn in by the easy, flexible plan and reduced price that CompuKids offered.
CompuKids is a certified 501c3 charity under its mother organization, College Bound, a Princeton-based nonprofit with education as its focus. With this status, CompuKids can purchase computers free of tax.
The boys look for low-end but reliable units. They do not accept computers more than two years old and prefer to buy them new. "It’s just a completely different feeling," says Matt of having a new versus old machine. Also, the accompanying warranties give the recipient families added security.
The families sign an agreement guaranteeing full compensation for the computer and monitor; the printer is free. Payment is made in interest-free monthly installments of the family’s choosing as little as $5 a month is accepted. "If they do have any trouble with a payment one month, we’ll work something out," says Matt.
Andrew Bergman first conceived of the program when he was 13, but his idea remained grounded until last fall, when he was joined in the venture by his friend Dan, and soon after by Matt.
The three boys raised funds by shoveling snow, and Andrew donated a portion of the money from his bar mitzvah. Although they have not found a local business willing to sponsor the charity, The Workstation computer repair store has provided technical assistance.
With enough funds last spring to purchase two computers, the boys asked their school guidance department to spread the word to students in need of computers.
Recipients were selected on merit, as well as need. After signing a waiver of confidentiality, the boys were given access to the students’ grades "We wanted it to be used for educational purposes," says Dan. Susana and other applicants handed in forms answering the question: "How would a computer benefit your educational needs?"
Including Susana’s, CompuKids has installed two computers and plans to deliver many more.
"I’d like to see people have better resources to obtain a better education," says Dan. "Kids who are doing well but don’t have the resources to get a computer, deserve a computer."
Goals for the future, says Andrew: Get more members, raise more money, reach out to more people. The boys are considering a dance or 5K run for next fall. They are still looking for a business sponsorship.
For more information, call (609) 577-3752 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.