Friday, June 1, 2007

Computers for Youth Teachers' Assistants Event at Luther Judson Price Middle School

May 12, 2007

Today I attended the Computers for Youth organization's Take It Home event at Luther Judson Price Middle School off of Pryor Road in Atlanta. Computers for Youth is an organization based out of New York City. Created by its president Elisabeth Stock and her co-founders in 1999, the organization seeks to empower low-income families by providing them with refurbished computers donated by large corporations that they then pack with educational and essential life-skills and business-skill-building software. You can read more about the CFY organization on their web site at

You can read about the Take it Home program in particular at:

Here is one important excerpt from their web site:

A National Problem
Computers for Youth's work is built on our belief that the home holds the greatest untapped potential for improving children's academic and life-long success. Compared to the classroom or the after-school center, the home has received the least attention from policy makers and educators. It is where children spend the greatest amount of time (only 13% is spent in the classroom) and where children interact with the adults most interested in their overall success—their parents/guardians.

The Home Learning Environment
The greatest disparity in children's learning environment is in their homes. It is there that low-income children face:

Lower levels of parental involvement. Research shows that low-income parents are less likely to monitor school assignments, know the names of their children's teachers or attend school functions.

Scarce educational resources. Less than half the children living in poverty have any books at all in their homes and only 46% have an Internet connection, compared to 88% of children in families with incomes above $75,000.

The agency has been featured on the New York news. Here is a four-minute video clip on YouTube that shows exactly what the organization does.


(See for the original page)

As for exactly what I and the other volunteers did today, here are the details.

  • 122 computers donated from the Bellsouth Corporation and refurbished by the TechCorps organization
  • 122 families, consisting of a student enrolled at the school and his or her mother and/or father or guardian(s)
  • Teachers, computer technicians, administrators and executives from Computers for Youth, traveling from New York City
  • Teachers and administrators from Price Middle School, participating today as volunteers
  • Volunteers from Hands On Atlanta and Techbridge
Today's Activities
  • CFY technicians brought computers into classrooms
  • Administrators from Computers for Youth and the administrators from Price Middle School provided an orientation to the students and their families in the cafeteria.
  • Families, CFY Teachers, and volunteers went into classrooms
  • CFY Teachers commenced the instruction of the following computer skills while volunteers assisted students and families:
    • Plugging in all component parts
    • Turning on the PC and starting up Windows 2000 Professional
    • Using OpenOffice Word Processor to type letters and papers and use spell check and dictionary functionality
    • Using OpenOffice Spreadsheet to calculate percentages and create pie charts
    • Using OpenOffice Presentation software to create slide shows
    • Using text-to-speech software to read written text aloud
    • Using specially installed tutorial software for teaching about:
      • Mathematics
      • Science
      • Social Studies
      • Reading and Writing
      • Typing skills
    • Using the 1-year-free America On-Line Dial Up service
    • Accessing the Computers for Youth tech support hot-line
    • Signed commitment to spend time together as a family doing Family Time Together (FaTT) activities. These activities consisted of using educational software together as a family.
  • Families dismissed to take home their new PCs!
These activities were performed twice. Each time there were more than 60 families who participated and received a computer!

There were three teachers from CFY. One works full-time for the organization. Another is a full-time middle school teacher who works part-time. A third, a Georgia Tech computer science graduate, is a full-time employee of Nortel Networks working in instructional design for certification courses who works part time at CFY. They all live in New York City. The computer technicians also traveled from New York City. They were responsible for helping complete the refurbishing process by installing and configuring the educational software packages on the systems. They also helped out all day long with providing replacement hardware for faulty devices, troubleshooting, and logistics support.

Local Connections
In addition to the CFY employees, I spoke with Sterling Christy, the principal of Price, about the value of technology for young people. There is no doubt in my mind that with the right direction and support from guardians and communities, a computer can change the course of a young student's life for the better. Couple that support with the right tutorial software and enough attention and determination, a student can make him or herself into a proficient graphic artist, web designer, application programmer, network engineer, or numerous other professionals. Additionally, nearly all professional jobs require extensive knowledge of using the internet for communications, community building, and research.

Math Instruction
I also spoke with a math consultant whose responsibilities include assessing the quality of math instruction in schools. She told me that when she was a teacher, she had used  C++ programming to help teach kids additional skills. The name of the program to evaluate and improve math education is called Move IT Math. She was also interested in my idea to use video-game programming as a way to educate youth about opportunties in information technology.

Science Instruction
One of the science teachers there told me he would love to get in touch with scientists from CDC, where I used to work, to learn about opportunities to teach kids about science outside of the classroom, so I told him I'd put him in touch with some people from there. We also discussed my own love for and advocacy of science as well as my great grandmother's paintings.

All in all, I have to say that this was one of the most rewarding volunteering efforts I have participated in thus far. Part of this is due to my own experience in building software applications and part of it was just that I realized how much potential a computer has for young students. Armed with the software included on these computers coupled with family and school commitment, these machines really are equipped like Home Learning Environments. As a professional software application programmer, I also thought about how challenging and rewarding it could be to work for a company that builds educational software for students. Ideally, I would love to work on educational software that teaches students about astronomy, biology, physics, computers, or just about anything interesting for that matter.

Computers for Youth in Atlanta
Computers for Youth is expanding into Atlanta this fall. This will be an excellent opportunity for local metro-Atlanta companies to partner with them to help them with their mission. I am looking forward to continuing to help serve the organization.

Related Resources
Computers for Youth:
Computers for Youth President Elisabeth Stock's Blog:
Atlanta Public Schools:
Luther Judson Price Middle School:
Move IT Math:
Hands On Atlanta:
Carola L. Gough Artwork:
My personal community service resume:

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