Fordham University continues to help the Bronx community cross the digital divide.
A collaboration between the RETC—Center for Professional Development and Per Scholas, a South Bronx nonprofit dedicated to using technology to improve the lives of people in low-income communities, made it possible for 125 families in the borough to receive personal computers along with the technology training needed to operate them.
The program, Comp2Kids, allowed students and families from three Bronx middle schools to attend training programs on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, where they were given reconditioned computers to take home. The Graduate School of Education’s Partnership Support Organization (PSO) identified two of the schools, Intermediate School 318 and Junior High School 117, which participated in the program.
“This event is an area of opportunity for us to reach out to the community to let them know what services the University offers,” said Steven D’Agustino, Ph.D., director of RETC. “It solidifies RETC as a real provider of technology services at the community level.”
Ken Walker, vice president of strategic partnerships for Per Scholas, said the template of the Comp2Kids program is that low-income students work hand-in-hand with their parents.
“We want the whole family to understand how to navigate the Internet and learn basic Microsoft applications, such as PowerPoint and Word,” Walker said. “We recently launched a campaign to provide 20,000 computers to students by 2012, and partnered with Fordham’s RETC because it can help us reach two or three schools at a time.”
Students and their families learned the basics and more—from turning on the computer to keeping an eye out for websites that could harm children. Fordham undergraduate volunteers and teachers from the participating schools provided the training.
“I’m thrilled we are getting local middle school students and their families on campus,” D’Agustino said. “It gives children access to a university campus as well as a glimpse of what university life might look like. It’s difficult for students—and their parents—to have college as a goal if they’ve never seen what one looks like.”
The program also broadens RETC’s reach as a community service organization. RETC offers extended services to parents in English as a second language and technology. Students from some schools in the Bronx are eligible for technology-mediated courses through the 21st Century Community Learning Center.
“With this program RETC is increasingly providing direct services to families,” D’Agustino said. “We are more aligned with the University’s mission of having a greater footprint in Bronx community.”