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2,500 & Counting
by Brianne Bowen | Aug 9, 2013 2:08 pm
Samara Redwine used to have to trek to the public library when she wanted to search for a new job online. Now, Redwine applies to positions from home using a computer donated by the Concepts for Adaptive Learning. Her 5-year-old son Keyari completes his summer reading homework, which is all online, and learns new words through educational computer programs like ABC Mouse.
Concepts for Adaptive Learning (CfAL) hosted a dinner to honor Redwine – the 2,500th parent to receive a computer and technical training through the organization – at Tre Scalini Thursday evening. CfAL board members, including New Haven mayoral candidate Toni Harp, attended the event along with the program’s instructors, recruiters, and past computer recipients
A not-for-profit that uses technology to help children in urban public schools, CfAL has donated 1,700 gently used computers to New Haven families alone. Parents must have a child enrolled in the public school system to qualify as recipients. In addition to a computer, families receive a printer and one free year of internet service. Parents can call a hotline to get computer help, and if a computer breaks down, CfAL replaces it.
Each computer is less than three years old and donated by a local organization, like Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, Carl Feen said. CfAL refurbishes the donated computers at a warehouse in Wallingford.
Founded in 2002, CfAL offers technical programs for teachers, parents, and children. The organization is the brainchild of Curtis Hill, a former Compaq employee with more than 30 years of experience in information technology, and was co-founded with Carl Feen and Michael Rachkovsky. Besides providing computers to families, the organization has taught more than 90 teachers how to make classes more engaging through the use of technology. The organization also teaches math to elementary school children and a class on starting a business to teens.
Redwine, a customer service representative from Brookside, first learned about the computer donation program through the Housing Authority of New Haven’s CARES program. Most parents join CfAL at the recommendation of their child’s school principal.
As the 2,500th recipient, Redwine received not only the usual computer, printer, and free internet service, but an upgraded monitor and speakers. The organization has celebrated each milestone – 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 2,000 recipients – with a dinner honoring the latest family. Hill pegged 5,000 recipients as the next goal.
In three weeks of biweekly classes at the housing authority building at 295 Wilmot Rd., Redwine and other parents learned computer basics, from how to use a mouse to how to set up Skype and email. Parents must complete the classes in order to receive their computer. “It’s knowledge first, tools second,” Hill said.
Some parents have barely used a computer before, instructor Jene Flores said. “I have to tell them, ‘[The mouse] isn’t going to bite you! It’s not a real mouse,’” she said.
Others parents, like Redwine, are fairly tech-savvy. As the lessons progressed, Redwine began to help other parents learn, instructor Nathan Joyner said. “She became my assistant. It was as if she knew how to be an instructor,” he said.
Redwine completed the training course on May 30 and Joyner installed her computer the very same day. Redwine’s son, Keyari, was so eager to start using the computer that Redwine had to tell him to wait upstairs until Joyner finished setting up. Keyari, who could not attend Thursday’s dinner, will start kindergarten this fall at the Lincoln-Bassett School.
Redwine has created a small home office based around her Dell computer and Sony monitor. Keyari logs in regularly to play games that help with reading and writing.
“To watch my 5-year-old son spell words he couldn’t a month ago, that’s amazing,” Redwine said.
During Thursday’s dinner, each of the nearly 30 guests stood up to talk about their experiences with the program. Melba Perez of Fair Haven had never used a computer before she signed up in 2003. Taking CfAL’s course allowed her to teach her eldest daughter, then a kindergartener at the former Timothy Dwight School, how to use Microsoft Word and other programs.
Tanya Williams had recently lost both her computer and her job when she learned about CfAL. After going through the program, she became a recruiter and now works as an instructor in the Hartford program. She also works as a college-level academic advisor, but called CfAL “the most important work I do.”
To close the evening, attendees signed a banner for Redwine, congratulating her on the computer and wishing her well. Toni Harp presented her with a bouquet and a hug. The event’s blue and white balloons were gathered so she could take them home to her son.
In addition to its work in New Haven, CfAL offers programs in Bridgeport, Hartford, Meriden, and Waterbury.
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This is an awesome event. I’m glad to see that CfAL is making technology available to those least able to access it. I wish that they’d be able to expand the services to younger kids as well or make it so that the entire family needs to learn how to properly use a computer. Though, that would likely have unintended consequences of denying those most in need.
Congratulations to Curtis and his army of volunteers, supporters and recipients. CfAL is an awesome idea driven by Curtis’s visionary leadership and determination to drive a simple idea to pay large dividends for families and children in many ways. Outstanding!