By Tess Hammock
Georgia 4-H’s Need a Computer program made 34 lucky students’ holidays brighter by awarding each of them a free personal computer.
The philanthropic program began 11 years ago as a 4-H project for Rachel McCarthy, then a Walton County 4-H’er. She and her father, Jim, received donated computers, refurbished them and gave the computers to 4-H’ers in Walton County. After Rachel graduated from high school, her sister, Amanda, began to head up the Need a Computer program. In 2003, the state 4-H Youth Technology Team picked up the program and has since awarded more than 500 computers to needy 4-H’ers across the state.
The team accepts computer donations all year and refurbishes them in the fall. This includes loading them with licensed software programs, cleaning, restoring hard drives and testing each computer and monitor to ensure the computers are in tip-top shape.
"Most of the computers are two or three years old," said Cheryl Varnadoe. "We don't accept older computers because we want to give the students computers that will be capable of running current programs and the Internet." Varnadoe is a UGA Extension 4-H specialist and the YTT state coordinator.
This year, applications were received from 50 fifth through 12th grade students and 34 computers were awarded. Applicants must write an essay about why they want and need a computer and submit letters of reference from teachers and community leaders.
The winning 4-H’ers’ reasons for needing a computer are varied.
In Coweta County, Makayla Denise Herndon wanted a computer for her mother. “My mom is a single parent who does her best to get us to the library or print off information when she is at work,” she said “This computer would take a lot of pressure off of her.”
Brittany Veal in Ben Hill County hopes having a computer of her own will help her grades. “Having my own computer will be like having a tutor at home with me, and I won’t have to have others laugh at me if I make a mistake,” she said.
A computer will help Dy’Amond McGhee of Bryan County save time and money. “I write my research paper on notebook paper at home and I go to the library to type and print the research paper because I don’t have a printer. And I have to pay 10 cents a page!”
Tyler Haymans of Walton County hopes his new computer will help him control his autism. “I have PDD-NOS. That is a form of autism. I don’t get as upset and frustrated typing as I do writing,” he said.
Wilkinson County 4-H’er Corey Spann plans to use his computer to practice for tests. “I am already behind one grade in school, but I want to do better. If I get a computer, I can practice for the CRCT because I have to pass it to go to the next grade,” he said.
For information on donating a computer or applying for the 2012 program, visit www.georgia4h.org/public/edops/techteam/Need-A-Computer/default.htm.
Tess Hammock is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.