Technology is so prevalent that it’s easy to think all students have access to computers and Internet in their homes, or can get to a library to complete assignments.
But that’s not reality.
“We need a computer for school,” said Marvin Guerrero, an eighth-grader at Selma Middle School. “We use them a lot. It’s hard if you don’t have one or if you can’t get a ride to the library.”
“This is going to be a big help for us,” said Tyisha Melvin, Guerrero’s mom.
Earlier this month, 31 students in grades 3-12 from across Johnston County who attended summer enrichment programs at Selma Middle School received desktop computers to take home. The students attended Selma Middle School STEAM and Summer Reading for Educational Advancement and Development, four-week programs to help enhance learning, prevent summer learning loss and ensure students maintain good nutrition through the summer.
“There’s a technology gap that we want to help address,” said Selma Middle School Teacher of the Year Tarsha Johnson.
The computers were a gift from the Kramden Institute, a Durham nonprofit that helps provide technology and training to students without a computer at home.
Students accepted their computers on Aug. 12, when they also received instruction in how to use them.
Kristina Zuidema, office manager at Kramden, spent time with students and parents teaching them the operating system installed on their new computers – Ubuntu, a Linux-based system. Unlike Windows and other operating systems, Zuidema said Ubuntu was especially resistant to viruses.
Zuidema started with the basics of hardware setup and care, and most of the students were quick studies or already familiar with computers, despite not having one at home.
“I know how to use one,” said Melanie Zavaleta, a sixth-grader. “This is a little different, but it seems really cool.
“I think it’s going to be a big help with my school work,” Zavaleta added.
The computers will benefit more than the students who received them, Kramden officials pointed out. Siblings and parents will benefit too, they said.
“You can use this, but your parents can use it too,” Zuidema said.
Johnson is also president and founder of REACH Our Communities. (REACH is short for Reaching Every Adult and Childhood Hardship.) She nominated the students in the summer enrichment programs to receive a computer from the Kramden Institute.
“They’re really excited, and we’re excited for them,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you’d never know a student lacked this kind of technology at home, and many families take the advantage of having a home computer for granted. It really makes a difference for these students and families.
“The computers will impact not only the kids but their parents too,” Johnson added. “They’ll have an opportunity to use the technology to job search at home. That’s important in helping our families be successful.”
Computers are prolific, and making sure that these students and their families have access to technology was key, said Cari DelMariani, director of programs for the Kramden Institute.
“Computers are so essential for students today,” she said. “ It’s pretty much impossible for them to be able to keep up if they don’t have some type of technology in their home.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come provide that technology to so many students.”
The computers came installed with more than 60 programs for students to use, including educational programs, web browsers and software for editing photos, audio and video.
Kramden also provides technical support for the computers for as long as the students are in school, Zuidema said.
“So you can call us if you have any problems and we can help you out,” she said. “We’re here for you if you need us.”
“We make sure the students know how to use all the programs on the computers so that they can fully use their new technology when they get home,” DelMariani said.
Students and parents carefully carried their monitors, towers, keyboards and mice to their cars after learning how to use them.
“It’s important to have a computer at home so that I can learn all year and not just at school,” said Malachi McDuffie, a seventh-grader.
“As a teacher at Selma Middle School, I see firsthand the obstacles that our students face every day,” Johnson said. “We (REACH Our Communities) are here to provide support to the students and the families by equipping them with the resources and knowledge that they need to overcome these obstacles. We want our communities to be safe and full of productive, law-abiding citizens, and the only way I know to ensure that is to educate the kids and their parents. This is our goal.”
For more information on REACH Our Communities, go to reachourcommunities.org or call 919-634-5807.
For more information on the Kramden Insitute, go to kramden.org.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett