Grant provides laptops to low-income youth

Grant provides laptops to low-income youth

July 18th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

A number of Chattanooga youths from low-income homes will have access to laptop computers this fall.

Connected Tennessee's Computers 4 Kids "Preparing Tennessee's Next Generation for Success" program gave 34 laptops to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chattanooga in June.

"It is our hope to provide the youth of Chattanooga with not just a connection to the Web, but a connection to the infinite and meaningful impact that knowledge, learning and access have on the lives of us all," said Mandy Hale, spokeswoman for Connected Tennessee.

Unlike the desktop computers already stationed at the three Boys and Girls Clubs around the city, students will be able to take the new laptops home, said Michael Cranford, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga.

Having take-home computers "will make a huge difference as far as students' ability to have access to education they don't have now," said Cranford.

The Boys and Girls Clubs serve about 2,000 students ages 6 to 18 at three sites in East Lake, Alton Park and Highland Park. Many participants come from low-income, single-parent homes and don't have computers, Cranford said.

With take-home computers, doing research papers may be easier for students, he said, and those in high school will be able to find more financial aid opportunities for college.

In the next few weeks, staff at the Boys and Girls Club will figure out the logistics of how someone will check out a laptop, Cranford said. The goal is to have the take-home laptops available to students this fall, he said.

The computers are equipped with Internet access and word processing and spreadsheet software. Boys and Girls Clubs officials want to partner with other companies to put more educational programs and digital art on them, said Debbie Gray, the Chattanooga club executive vice president.

"What a great opportunity this will be for the kids," she said.

She's also seeking moviemaking and Web design programs so students may learn some job skills with the computers.

Computers 4 Kids is funded by a $2.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Connected Tennessee officials say they expect to award more than 700 computers statewide to Boys and Girls clubs this year.

About 2,500 computers have been distributed statewide since August 2010 by Computer 4 Kids.

The program gives computers, academic support programs and workforce training to two at-risk populations: those in the state's foster care system who are aging out as they turn 18, and youth who are active in the state's 76 Boys and Girls Clubs.

The program will affect nearly 60,000 youth across the state, according to a Connected Tennessee news release.