` Diane Lenz-Shanley | From Dana's Guests | DanaRoc.com

From Dana's Guests

Diane Lenz-Shanley

Comp2Kids - No Child Left Behind

Diane and Jim Shanley

Comp2kids is an organization that exists to address the technological divide. Comp2kids is on a mission to make sure that every child has access to computers, the Internet and basic technology tools because being able to participate in the technology age is fast becoming as important as having access to books!

Diane Lenz and the members of Comp2kids are committed that every child be served and that not one child be left behind and unable to compete because they didn't have a computer.

Four years ago a friend invited me to a meeting of Comp2Kids, a newly formed non-profit organization formed to create programs to "bridge the digital divide." I hadn't been involved in any non-profit work since moving to from Colorado to New York City. The intensity of my new job selling technology consulting to Wall Street banks was pretty staggering. The pace of life in New York was so intense, I couldn't imagine taking on anything more. But I went to the meeting, thinking it would give me a chance to meet some new people.

Ten of us met in a small windowless living room in New York and I listened while they discussed the technology revolution that was engulfing us, and how it was changing our lives. They talked about the thousands of children living in ghettos surrounding Manhattan, the financial capital of the world. These kids had no access to computers and no knowledge of how the world was changing. What was going to become of these kids? We convened the meeting by assigning members of the group to research different sources to discover whether there were any organizations or programs working to help these kids. When we met again, all of us had concluded the same astounding thing. With few exceptions, we couldn't find anyone who was providing home computers or training to these children. In this era of 'leave no child behind' education programs, apparently no one was addressing the digital divide. Inner city schools received a whopping three dollars per year per child for all materials, text books, paper, and chalk, everything teachers needed day to day. The idea that these students would be receiving computers or technology training anytime soon seemed laughable.

"What a travesty," I thought. "These kids aren't old enough to know what's going on around them, and they are economically doomed, right here in the richest city in the world." I wanted to do something, anything to try to help them.

I was a school teacher when I first left Napoleon Missouri in 1979. I thought teaching was the noblest of professions, and wanted to be a great teacher and make a difference for children. But after only 3 years I got frustrated with the bureaucracy and politics in the public school system. I left for a career in sales but told myself I would someday do something to make it better for teachers and for students.

None of the people in our little Comp2Kids meeting had much non-profit experience. We knew we wanted to help these kids, but didn't have any idea how to fill out grant applications, or work with foundations to get money. We contacted corporate foundations and made presentations, filled out grants, but got no where. Everyone said our program didn't match their criteria for funding.

So we did what we knew to do. We invited all our friends and colleagues to come and join us in a fundraiser/party. We managed to raise enough money to buy 125 laptop computers for all the teachers and administrators at Roberto Clemente School in Harlem. We invited the press to come to the official launch of Comp2Kids program in the school auditorium, and of course they ignored us, but we just kept going. We resolved that not only would we provide these children home computers, but we would train the teachers and parents beforehand so the kids would have the support they needed to be successful. We called all our friends in technology jobs and asked them to come on Saturdays to train the teachers to use the computers and they came, and did an amazing job. In no time the teachers were doing their work on computers and using email to communicate with the administration and between themselves. We asked them to design curricula for the following Fall when we would provide their students with computers. They needed to include homework that required the use of the computers and the internet, so the children learn to use the computers to broaden their worlds.

The next year, we rolled out computers to the 6th grade incoming class. Every sixth grader at Roberto Clemente Intermediary School who wanted a computer had to get one parent to school on two consecutive Saturdays to be trained on the computer and on internet research.

That was last year. This year we completed our program of providing every student at Roberto Clemente School with a computer, and next year we will be rolling out our program to a second school, in addition to supporting incoming sixth graders each year at Roberto Clemente. Our list of volunteers has grown, so that we now have 100 IT professionals to call on for Saturday training. We're hiring a full time program manager, and hope to add one school a year starting next year.

The satisfaction I received from this program is illustrated in stories like this one from the rollout of 330 computers this past April. As I went around to each of the classrooms during parent training, I noticed one burly father who was sitting beside his son, watching while his son worked with the tutor on a lesson meant for him. I bent down and gently lifted the sons hand from the mouse and pushed the mouse over in front of the Father, who spoke no English.

"No!" I said to the Father.

"You take it. You!" I said, pointing and gesturing for him to take the mouse.


Wednesday March 29th, 6-9:00
Tribeca Rooftop
2 Des Brosses Street, NYC

Join Comp2Kids for an evening you won't soon forget:

Top Shelf Open Bar, Hors D'oeuvres, Pasta Station, Coffee & Dessert

All proceeds from this event will be used to purchase computers for the children of Crotona Park West Middle School in the South Bronx.

Comp2Kids - Empowering Children
through Leadership and Technology -
One Community at a Time.

Comp2Kids is a non-profit organization that provides students and teachers at disadvantaged inner city schools, with their own personal computers. By providing home computers and training for every student and teacher at schools where there is little or no access to technology, Comp2Kids brings the advantages of today's information and communication tools to low-income communities, opening the door to successful future.

>>Click here to learn more and to RSVP<<

He held up his big dock worker hands in protest, as though by touching the mouse his strong hands would crush it. After much convincing, he finally put his big hand on the mouse and awkwardly moved it, watching with a mixture of wonder and curiosity as the cursor started to respond on the screen. He was embarrassed, hesitant, but willing to try. A tutor came over and began speaking softly to him in Spanish, showing him how to hold the cursor. I moved on to work with others.

Later when I stopped by their desk, the Father was using the cursor to highlight a sentence he'd typed in Microsoft Word so he could change the font size. His eyes moved between the computer screen and the instructor at the front of the class as he concentrated on the lesson. He was working independently as the son watched quietly. It was a thing of beauty to watch.

I left the classroom and wept.

The following weekend I saw Father and son leaving the school with their computer and monitor strapped with a bungee cord onto a grocery push cart. They were wheeling their computer out of the school to take it home. He stopped when he saw me and in broken English, said "How? How to thank you?" "

My son have now, but I have, me - this Internet! You understand?"

Yes, dear father, I understand. That's what we've been working for.

Comp2Kids is about technology enabling students, their schools, and their families. It's taken time to get where we are now, but I'm very satisfied that it's been worth it.

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