Computers4Kids is a non-profit after-school technology mentoring program for disadvantaged youth. We strive to improve low income youth’s computer and learning skills through caring mentorship, structured training, a vibrant learning environment, and access to a computer 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.
Charlottesville and Albemarle students in grades 7 through 12, who qualify for the federal lunch program, are eligible to join our program. While much of our focus is on our mentoring program, Computers4Kids also emphasizes after-school independent learning as well. Students using the lab when not meeting with their mentor enjoy workshops, structured activities, and other projects so that they may continue to learn new skills. All students in the program are eligible to earn a free home computer system and year of free internet access. Once a year we have a formal celebration to honor Computers4Kids graduates.
In April 2009 Computers4Kids launched Teen Tech , a program created specifically for graduates of our nine-month mentoring program. Graduates have the opportunity to further their technology skills, receive college and career guidance, and be a part of the Teen Tech community.
Youth Program Outreach
The VISTA member will perform a variety of tasks related to program development.
First, the VISTA member will be responsible for student recruitment. This will include creating recruitment materials and a strategy that will encourage more students to join our program. Possible duties will include developing relationships with area schools and public housing communities in the search for students, and organizing student recruitment events both at our computer lab and off-site.
Second, the VISTA member will assist in the development and launching a new program, Grad Central, within Computers4Kids. Distinct from the nine-month Technology Gateways program, Grad Central will be dedicated to Technology Gateways graduates, who tend to be older, are at a higher computer skill level, and have different needs as they prepare for college and careers than Gateways students. The VISTA member will research and develop project ideas for Grad Central, create curriculum for daily activities and ongoing projects, and identify and recruit community members who will be instrumental in achieving the goals of the program (e.g. SAT-prep teachers, career counselors, job shadowing partners, etc.).
Third, we would like our new VISTA to pick up where our previous member left off in regards to student workshops. A major responsibility of our previous VISTA member was to develop workshops for our students on a variety of technology topics. We now have an extensive library of workshop curricula, yet no one to lead the workshops. We would like our VISTA member to recruit enough volunteer workshop leaders to hold several student workshops a month.
With regard to student recruitment, Davina developed a brochure and created a calendar/plan for student recruitment. The plan identifies events where we might canvas for students, identifies contacts, who attends, and whether the event was a useful recruitment event. In addition, it includes action steps for non-event related recruitment opportunities. Davina also added recruitment contacts to our database and created materials for the student recruitment display board.
The Grad Cenetral program did not get started until mid April so we did not ask Davina to work on this.
Davina scheduled 29 student and mentor workshops (more than our goal) and identified volunteers to lead all workshops. This is a tremendous help to staff as they do not have time to lead the workshops and in prior years we were able to offer fewer workshops because of this.
Davina became our tech wizard. She maintained the computers in the learning labs. She also did a lot of work on our website, including creating PHP forms which allowed us to create forms that aid in our ability to collect data for evaluating purposes. She also created applications that made it easy for volunteers to sign up to volunteer and report tech issues.
Other forms allow us to see what our students have done in the lab each day – something that has been missing from our program – and will be helpful in planning and securing future funding. Davina also taught herself captcha which added security to our web based forms. Davina mostly worked independently on these tasks but sought staff input when necessary. She worked most closely with Dolly Joseph, our Program Director.
“Davina began working with Computers4Kids at the same time all the staff was new (except ED). There was a lot going on–with everyone learning the ropes–and her ability to observe, recognize and jump in where help was needed and greatly appreciated. The systems she put in place will be used by staff for years to come.”
- Kala Somerville, supervisor
CTC Youth Digital Media Workshop Building
Ray was responsible for managing our computer refurbishing lab, including creating a training program for refurbishing volunteers, researching an inventory system, developing and leading technology workshops for our students. While his work in the refurb lab was very valuable, his most significant accomplishment, and the one that was the biggest benefit to our organization, was the workshops he developed for our technology center.
Ray spent the year coming up with ideas for the workshops, creating the materials necessary to lead the workshops, and organizing the instructors of the workshops. Workshop topics included digital storytelling, silent movie-making, audio dubbing, and 3D imaging. Ray learned how create (and advertise) workshops that are appealing to teens and eventually had regular attendance at them. Students in our program earn a free computer system to take home. Our policy states that if they attend 5 workshops, they’ll earn enough extra credit to earn a year of free internet access at home. While nearly all of our students earn the home computer, many students weren’t able to take advantage of the free internet since they weren’t getting the opportunity to attend workshops. With Ray’s help, a great number of students were able to attend the workshops that are required in order to earn home internet. While having a home computer is valuable to our students, without internet they remain at a disadvantage when it comes to completing homework and projects for school.
Now that Ray’s term has ended we are happy to have a whole library of workshop ideas and materials at the ready. Because everything has already been developed, it is much easier for us to recruit volunteers to lead our workshops, since it no longer requires a significant time commitment on their part. We are pleased that we were able to, and will be able to continue to, offer so many workshops to our students and that they may earn internet access at home.