Electronics for Empowerment

Local Tucson Nonprofit Refurbishes 30 Computers for Homeless Youth

Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, Youth On Their Own (YOTO) has refurbished more than 30 laptop and desktop computers for homeless students in the enrolled program. YOTO relies on the generosity of the community for these computer and electronic donations. Many of the computers that are donated have outdated software and contain multiple viruses. Douglas Plecity, YOTO’s Data and IT Coordinator, updates the computers and informs students on how they can keep the technology current on their own. While all computer donations are gladly accepted, laptops generally work best for students’ needs. Since many of the youth in the program find themselves moving around frequently, the portable nature of laptops is extremely beneficial.

In order to receive a computer, students must qualify for the YOTO stipend program. This means they must consistently receive good grades (A’s, B’s, or C’s) and regularly attend class. These students must also sign a behavioral contract acknowledging that they will lose their stipend if they become involved with drugs or gangs, or if they are suspended. Eligible students can then request a computer and specify their needs for the technology. Each YOTO student is allowed to receive one computer during their time with the program. Douglas explains, “It’s amazing to watch the students light up when they see their computer. They are often not used to receiving such a special gift. Having access to their own technology is empowering and gives the students a sense of freedom.”

YOTO Program Manager, Daniela Zasa, works closely with the students in our program. She has seen how these computers impact the students’ confidence and educational experience first-hand. Daniela says, “For many of our youth, a computer is vital to their academic success. For parenting youth, it allows them to work on their school work from home, reducing the cost of child care and continuing their coursework during maternity leave. For our youth who go to alternative schools, as many of their courses are online, this allows them to catch up on work, credits, and get ahead. In general, as the dependence on technology becomes more and more the standard, it allows our students to keep up, regardless of their economic situation. It can mean the difference between lost opportunities and access to resources and, ultimately, high school graduation success.”

In addition to laptops, YOTO also provides qualifying students with cell phones and an initial cellular plan. As technology continues to advance and education begins expanding online, it is vital that students in the YOTO program are able to keep up with their peers. For more information on how you can donate a computer or cell phone to a student in need, call us at (520) 293-1136.

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