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Computers4Kids

Charlottesville, VA
Capital: Social, Human

Computers4Kids is an afterschool technology mentoring and independent learning program for youth from low-income families. It originally began as a computer redistribution center. Utilizing the growing supply of surplus computers that results when businesses and citizens upgrade their equipment, Computers4Kids began collecting used computers, found volunteers to refurbish the equipment, and worked to find placements for the equipment in the homes of those who could not afford to purchase their own.

The mission of Computers4Kids is to improve the computer and learning skills of low-income youth through caring mentorship, structured training, a vibrant learning environment, and access to a computer and Internet service at home. The program uses computers as a catalyst for youth to challenge themselves, become engaged in their own learning, and realize greater possibilities—academically, professionally, and for their community.

Although Computers4Kids is an educational program, its goal is to make the computer lab a fun place that students are excited to visit after school. Students work one-on-one with mentors; they brainstorm and create technology projects based on the student's interest. In addition, Computers4Kids offers regular educational workshops that generally cover a particular software application or other technology skill. Computers4Kids determines which workshops to offer based on student requests.

The complexity of student projects varies greatly depending on student skill level and areas of interest. Nearly all Computers4Kids students create their own websites. Other projects have included designing and developing a computer game, using the Internet to research careers, and determining what kinds of education and experience are needed in a particular field. Some students have learned how to create animation on the computer. Other students also have completed community-minded projects, such as creating a website that provides information on the city parks.

Computers4Kids currently operates a computer training class, mentoring program, and drop-in independent learning computer lab. Since its inception, the program has trained more than 440 youth who have visited with their mentors more than 10,000 times. The program continues to extend its services to at least 10 new youth every month.

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