Students at Fishers Junior High School (FJHS) are busy refurbishing old computers and loaning them to families in need. This is just one example of how these students are reaching out to others not only in Hamilton County but also around the world. These student volunteers represent the driving force behind the nonprofit organization Net Literacy.
“My students’ goal is to connect with not-for-profits in order to make a difference in the community,” says Deborah Kletch, faculty advisor and science teacher at Fishers Junior High. Kletch serves as the faculty Net Literacy board member and works alongside two middle school student board members. Here is what these two middle school students have to say about their involvement as student board members:
“I feel like I’m doing something for the community that can really impact people. Also, I feel smarter about computers since I’ve been volunteering.” (Liza Fortozo, 8th grade)
“I like to help people that are in need of computers. Many schools don’t have them, and this program is really helping education.” (Daniel Schiele, 8th grade)
The students at FJHS’s Net Literacy chapter have included four phases in their 2012-2013 goal of community service. They are as follows:
- Providing Computers for Those in Need at School: The students of the Net Literacy Program have recently completed refurbishing over 70 computers that were donated by businesses and private citizens. They will not only provide 20 computers to qualifying families of FJHS students that do not have a computer at home, but they will also train both students and their families on how to use the computers and the programs affiliated with the school, such as Skyward and Angel.
- Implementing Community Lab for Underserved: The students will donate computers so that a local nonprofit organization can build or expand its computer lab. Nonprofits interested in learning more should contact Deborah Kletch (dKletch@hse.k12.in.us) for more information.
- Teaching Internet Safety for Elementary Students: The Net Literacy students will continue to educate the youth and their parents about internet safety. They will visit Cub Scout meetings and cover topics such as appropriate identification and user names, keeping information private in social media/ game sites, and cyber bullying.
- Providing Computers for Medical Purposes in Third World Countries: Net Literacy will support IU Global Medical Brigades by providing computers that will be used by an American mission. As a result, the hope is for IU medical students to track patient demographic information and medical records data for established clinics in Haiti and other third world countries.
“We do more than just fix computers,” says Antonio Baltzell, youngest co-chair of Net Literacy and freshman at Fishers High School. “We work on promoting youth philanthropy, problem solving, and teamwork.” Antonio was responsible for starting the Net Literacy chapter at FJHS and is trying to implement a new one at FHS. Speaking from the heart, he says, “I find it motivating to do something to benefit society. I like the feeling of helping others. Most people think kids can’t make a difference; but when they put their minds to it, they can accomplish a lot.”
Net Literacy Began in Hamilton County and Carries International Impact
What began as a middle school student talking to a senior citizen about the need for computer access in his independent living facility has grown into an organization that has received national and international recognition. Net Literacy has been honored by two American presidents.
In 2003, a middle school student, Dan Kent, was teaching internet skills at the Carmel Clay Public Library to elementary students and senior citizens. One of the seniors explained to Dan the need for his neighbors, who were mobility impaired, to communicate to their grandchildren via email. As a result, Dan and his friends cultivated a plan to connect others in need. Not long after, Dan incorporated Net Literacy as a nonprofit. The first officers and board members were all middle school students, volunteering their time.
Today, this organization has provided over 20,000 donated computers to schools, libraries, nonprofits, and families and has developed an integrated series of digital literacy programs. (www.netliteracy.org) What’s more, its board of directors is 50% comprised of students.
“In 2003, Net Literacy was founded by middle school students and ten years later, the student volunteers at Fishers Junior High continue this community service initiative as they learn STEM, leadership, and social entrepreneurial skills,” says Dan Kent, president & executive director of Net Literacy. “I am proud of them for the contributions they are making for their classmates and community.”
Incidentally, Dan just recently presented the Net Literacy model to the United Nations Broadband Commissions in New York City. Net Literacy has established relationships with internet associations representing 270,000 internet companies on six continents, illustrating how engaged youth could help increase digital inclusion around the world.
Donating Your Old Computers to a Worthy Cause
If you are an individual or a business who may be upgrading your computer system, student volunteers would appreciate your contribution to Net Literacy as opposed to recycling them.
“The HSE schools donated equipment that was no longer of value to them but is making a huge difference to everyone in the community,” says Kletch. “We are in need of anything in Windows XP or newer, like CPU’s, monitors (which are hard to find), keyboards, and mice.” Please contact dKletch@hse.k12.in.us to make a donation.
You can trust that the students at FJHS will put any donated hardware to positive use as they continue to work diligently in utilizing and restoring technology. Together, these teens exemplify true leadership as they remain committed to making both their community and their world a better place.