Kathryn Murdock is without sight but not without motivation. She took a program that started as part of a church homework club, with three computers, and developed it into a rotating six-week course at an inner-city community center that trains children to use computers and gives each child one to take home on successful completion of the course. To date, more than 400 students have completed the course, which is now given at three levels of complexity. Older students receive computers with Internet capacity.
In Stamford, CT, school presents a stark contrast between affluent families and those with a single parent and few resources. The ability to use a computer is a basic necessity both for success in school and in the workforce. Occasional, low-level computer use in the classroom cannot compare with daily use of one's own set-up at home. Not only is students' facility with computer immeasurably greater, pride and self-worth are increased. There is a reported transformation from the first training session, when not one child actually believes s/he would receive a real computer.
The program brings inner-city children, from fourth grade on, into contact with corporate donors who provide computers. It also makes them acquainted with volunteer instructors who locate, transport, repair and set up the machines in addition to providing instruction. These are caring adults with whom the students might otherwise never meet. Many students return regularly to maintain contact with their mentors.
Murdock has been the driving force of this program for four years, the first two as a volunteer. Since writing a grant request that brought in much-needed funds, she receives a small stipend for administering the program. Her numerous jobs include doing intake on all computers, supervising teen volunteers in testing and set-up, designing curriculum, processing paperwork, writing grants and teaching the introductory Yerwood Center Earn a Computer Course.
Surveys indicate that 70% of course graduates, of whom 50% live in public housing, use their computers and have also taught their families computer skills. A single mother was able to return to college as a result of having a good computer at home. The combination of the educational component and the donation of computers make the course highly effective, in terms of skills acquired and human interactions.