Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014

TCC-computer-club-2In 2009, Tidewater Community College’s Computers for Student Success program narrowed the digital divide by giving away 800 computers to needy students. A few weeks ago, the program reached a significant milestone by giving away its 5,000th computer.

That amounts to roughly 83 PCs and laptops every month for five years. That’s a lot of hardware. TCC Information Technology professor Gary Noah, who heads up the program, says all of the machines are donated.

“The vast majority of the computers we refurbish come from Sentara Healthcare. They have 24,000 computers and have given us first right of refusal on every computer they get rid of.”

And nothing is wasted. In fact, parts that can’t be salvaged are sold for scrap while things like monitors that don’t have a scrap value are given to Goodwill.

Noah says it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. The companies that donate the machines get a tax write-off and the benefit to the students who receive the computers can be life-changing. As for the students who refurbish the machines, Noah says the hands-on training they receive repairing the computers is invaluable.

“Most of them are in working condition so it is easy, but we do have two rooms where things can be more challenging. The laptop room and personal computer repair. In those rooms, computers get torn down to the motherboard and built back up. Every computer gets a wipe and reinstall so that is easy after the first day.”

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Members of the TCC Computer Club

The Computers for Student Success program has won nearly a half-dozen awards from the VCCS and has been replicated at other colleges around the country, including New River Community College. Noah says the program has also received a lot of favorable publicity.

“We were in the Virginian-Pilot twice. We were on WVEC Channel 13 News. In 2012, we made the Top 20 in the Computer World Honors Program. There were 500 entries from 25 countries. We had to go to DC for a black Tie Dinner.”

Needy students aren’t the only ones who find themselves on the receiving end of the Computer Club’s largesse. A number of local shelters and non-profit organizations as well as a Virginia Beach elementary school are all recent recipients of some of the refurbished computers.

“They either contacted us or were recommended by someone,” Noah says. “So far, we have not turned down a non-profit. In fact, many times we end up being able to assist them with more than they thought we could.”

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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