CU-Boulder Bridges Digital Divide with Computers for Youth

The CU Environmental Center, with support from a number of campus departments and private sources, is expanding its innovative approach to both protect the environment and benefit disadvantaged communities in Colorado.  Computers for Youth is now an ongoing, year-round program.

CU’s “Computers for Youth” program provides middle and high school students from low-income communities around Colorado with upgraded computers and basic computing programs. Surplus computer equipment will be gathered, tested, and re-furbished to original specifications and loaded with the latest software to assist students' academic achievement.

Computers for YouthThese youth will each build an upgraded computer they will use to assist their education at home. On-site instruction and follow-up mentoring will be provided by CU students from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement and the state-wide MESA program (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement). These CU student mentors will also provide ongoing assistance and encouragement throughout the year.  An important goal is to enhance the middle and high schools students’ academic skills to enable their enrollment at Universities like CU.

Two pressing issues will be addressed through the program: the growing amount of waste from computers and the "digital divide" (the relative inaccessibility to computing and communication technology).

As technology increasingly becomes a part of daily life, those without computer access fall further and further behind. This consequence, known as the "Digital Divide", mainly effects under-privileged populations, especially youth. With such a great amount of computer equipment being discarded by a technologically advanced campus and community, it only makes sense that some of this equipment be restored and redistributed in an effort to "bridge the digital divide".

The Environmental Center has demonstrated success in this area. In 2005, Dell funded CU’s first computer round-up where over 50 working systems were collected from the community within the three day event.  Then, in 2006, EPA funding allowed CU to expand its efforts statewide.  Last year, CU teamed up internally to provide a new level of student-lead service.  With this experience, CU can more fully develop the educational experience of connecting CU students with disadvantaged middle and high school students.

This project is unique in that it connects CU’s commitment to diversity with its experience protecting the environment.  It is designed to help the public understand that these two efforts can complement one another.  The CU Environmental Center’s newly-expanded mission strengthens this link between environmental preservation and social equity.  Important contributers to date include the VOQAL Foundation, CU’s Property Service, CU Parents Association, and the Microsoft Corporation.  It is hoped this project will create additional collaboration with community groups and corporate sponsors in Colorado.

For More Information, contact:

Jack DeBell, CU Environmental Center