By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As schools across the country start the school year via distanced learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, some students are without the item they need most: a computer.
The need — which can lead to students starting the school year at a disadvantage — has led everyday citizens to step up and try to fill the shortage.
Darla Purce, a mom of two in Houston, has refurbished more than two dozen laptops and counting for students in her area.
It all started when a neighbor asked if her 12-year-old son would like his old desktop computer for the school year. Purce said her son did not need it, but she took the computer, refurbished it and posted it on the NextDoor neighborhood app to give it away.
“After getting so many responses, I said to myself, ‘Well clearly there’s a need here,"” said Purce, who taught herself how to fix computers more than a decade ago when she was a single mom to a young daughter and her own computer needed a repair. “I thought, ‘My skills are old but hopefully they can be useful."”
Purce, who is now in college full-time, has turned her home into a computer repair shop — and the effort has become a family affair.
Her son helps with the repairs and her mom covers the financial costs of her volunteer work, which she sees as giving each student an equal shot at life.
“If we’re talking about true equality, we’re talking about education, and education these days is access to technology,” she said. “If we really want things to be equal for all the children coming up now, we need to make sure everybody has access to this technology.”
In North Carolina, more than 300 students have computers for the new school year thanks to the work of Brittany Cleckley, the founder of a Greensboro, North Carolina, dance studio, iAlign Dance Company.
“When schools shut down back in March, a lot of my students were gravely affected,” Cleckley told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “They didn’t have computers or laptops or any way to get in touch with their teachers.”
“I was able to find a few laptops and get those refurbished and hand them out to my students,” she said. “They then told a friend and told a friend and the need and demand grew.”
In the school district where Cleckley’s studio is based, she said as many as 10% of students never finished the school year when schools switched to virtual learning.
“We still have more requests than we do the laptops and computers to hand out to students,” said Cleckley, who early on found a technology company that would refurbish the laptops for her.
She is now hoping to find companies that can donate laptops and computers they may be no longer be using — as employees also switched to virtual working.
“A lot of companies updated and increased a lot of their laptops and computers and technology for their employees,” said Cleckley. “I’m not sure what they did with their old resources, but I’m really urging them to reach out to us and we will take the computers.”
“We’re just trying to give as many students as possible a chance to learn,” she said.
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