Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Old Computers Can Make a Lifelong Impact on Low-Income Kids

January 29, 2015
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How Old Computers Can Make a Lifelong Impact on Low-Income Kids
Colorado's Computers to Youth program helps low-income students refurbish old computers that they can then take home. Computers to Youth
Refurbished machines go to students in need.

Between personal computers and the machines in computer labs, there are about as many computers on college campuses as students. But when these electronics become obsolete, what happens to them?

If tossed into landfills, they become a big environmental hazard. But the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) has figured out how to turn them into a solution that helps out low-income students.

The school’s program, Computers to Youth, runs camps for inner-city students, teaching them about life in college and how to refurbish old computers. At the conclusion of camp, each student takes home a computer.

Dave Newport, director of CU’s Environmental Center, tells KUSA that there are 10,000 computers on campus — all of which are regularly replaced. “We can’t give away enough of these,” he says. The program “helps protect the environment. It reduces cost. But the best part is, it empowers students.”

Basheer Mohamed, a sophomore engineering major at CU, can vouch for that. The immigrant from Sudan received a computer from Computers to Youth when he was in high school. Prior to that, his family couldn’t afford one. “Between us and more privileged kids, it was really hard to keep up with them,” he says. When he got his computer, he excelled in school, became interested in engineering and even researched and applied for the scholarships that now are funding his education.

What might he be doing if he never received that rehabbed computer? “If anything, I’d probably be going to a community college if not just working,” Mohamed says. “I don’t want to know where I would’ve been without it.”

Thanks to Computers to Youth, that’s one computer kept out of the landfill, and one mind sparked to great achievement by higher education.

MORE: How to Bridge the Digital Divide
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