While having a computer at home may seem ubiquitous nowadays, not everyone in Northern Nevada has been able to afford the technology that many take for granted.
The Reno Cigar Lions Club, a volunteer-based service organization, recognized this need and in 2010 started their Computer for Kids Program. Since then, they have provided more than 9,000 computers at no cost to students and their families.
The computers, donated from the community, are refurbished PC’s equipped with the open-source Linux operating system.
“Our purpose, since Day One, has been to provide computers to students throughout the Northern Nevada area who cannot otherwise afford to have one in their home,” said David Dehls, president of the Reno Cigar Lions Club. “The reason why we do this is because this is our future. These kids need to be able to navigate business and education.
“They are the ones who are going to be taking over the running of our country. We need an educated populace, and this is one way we can help close the gap between those that are able to have computers at home and those who do not have computers at home.”
The organization hosts classes on the third Saturday each month to not only distribute the computers but also to teach the recipients how to use the technology that is now at their fingertips.
During the hour-long class on Dec. 17, 37 students were introduced to their new computers and learned the ins and outs of of how they work and what they are capable of.
Reno High freshman Isaiah Jones-Wofford held his 6-month-old sister in his lap during the class as his mother, Jessica Wofford, sat nearby.
“This program is very important to us because Isaiah has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and he needs a laptop to use speech-to-text for his classes,” Wofford said. “Washoe County School District doesn’t have enough computers for all the children with IEP’s. So this program is going to help Isaiah graduate from high school.”
According to Reno Cigar Lions Club board member Ira Victor, who works as a digital forensic analyst, the computers have the potential to make a difference not only in the students’ lives.
“We’re giving these students the power for them to be the person who changes the world,” Victor said. “The power in these systems can help them change the world. To create something new that has never been created before. And many of them could do it if they only had the right tools and support.
“We provide those tools and support. We can’t guarantee where it ends up with them, but if they want to take this far, they can take this far in their life, and many of them do.”
Reno Cigar Lions Club President Dehls agreed.
“I would say that we are providing these young people with the opportunity to make their future into whatever they want it to be,” Dehls said. “And that’s something that, in many of these cases, with many of these families, nobody had had an opportunity to do so before.”
Computers for Kids has been going on for over 12 years, and that has given Victor the chance to hear from past recipients about what the program has meant to them.
“The most rewarding part of our program is that we have kids that come from very challenging environments,” Victor said, “and they go through our program and they become adults, and we have found out from them that giving them that computer changed the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families.”
To learn more, donate a computer or volunteer, go to computersforkidsclub.com