Pixel Tracker

Friday, March 22 , 2019, 2:40 pm | A Few Clouds 61º

 
 
 
 

Bill Cirone: Computers for Families Shows the Power of Partnerships

In third grade, “Maria” was doing so poorly in school that she was at risk of dropping out. By the end of fourth grade, she was a top student who was working above her grade level.

What made the difference? Many factors, and many people, were essential to the transformation, but one event stood out: Maria received a computer even though her family couldn’t afford one. Her benefactor was Computers for Families, which hit a milestone this year when it provided its 10,000th free computer to a local low-income child.

In many cases, including Maria’s, those children immediately begin teaching their siblings and even their parents how to use the technology. Imagine the impact; imagine the number of lives that have been touched by those 10,000 computers.

This success is even more remarkable when you realize that every one of these computers was donated, refurbished and distributed, at no cost to the families, through a partnership of businesses, nonprofit organizations and schools.

The cornerstones of this partnership are the enlightened local business leaders who realize that a contribution to children is an investment in everyone’s future. They know that strong schools, strong communities and a strong economy work hand in hand, with each one reinforcing the others.

Computers for Families is a program of the nonprofit Partners in Education that is administered by my office, with the goal of having a computer in the home of every student on the South Coast. A similar program, Computer Connections, operates in the North County through the cooperation of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

The CFF concept is simple. Businesses, government agencies and individuals donate their outdated computers, and high school students in the Regional Occupational Program learn how to repair and upgrade them. Cox Communications provides discounted Internet access, and SBCEO employees provide computer training for the children, their parents and even their teachers, as needed.

A computer is just a tool, so by itself it can’t make much difference. Maria had an inner drive to succeed, as well as dedicated teachers and caring parents who did all they could to support her. But as a tool, a computer is as essential for today’s students as pencils and paper were for earlier generations.

Educators and employers speak about the “digital divide” between students with access to technology and those with none. Computers for Families is dedicated to closing this gap, because it puts low-income children at a tremendous disadvantage as they try to keep up with classmates who have access at home to all the research tools and other resources they need. Until students cross that divide, they can’t achieve their full potential in school or careers — and that matters to all of us. Before we know it, today’s students will be the foundation of our community and our economy. Everyone’s future depends upon their preparation to become fully contributing members of society.

CFF is an inspiring example of thinking globally and acting locally. Without waiting for some grand government solution, local people put their heads together 16 years ago and created a win-win partnership.

Computers for Families has been a success because, at its heart, it isn’t about computers; it’s about families. It’s about improving lives and our community, one child at a time.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.