Published on 03/05/09

Grant helps Georgia 4-H provide technology

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Each year, the Georgia 4-H Youth Technology Leadership Team tries to award 50 computers to Georgia students who apply for them. Thanks to a State Farm service-learning grant, the computers this year will include modems, printers and speakers.

Through the Need-A-Computer program, the 4-H technology team has awarded more than 400 refurbished computers over the past 11 years, delivering them each December.

“I love to watch kids’ faces light up” when they get a computer, said Nicole Batten, who judges the applications. Batten is tech support engineer for Intuit, an Athens, Ga., company that designs money-management software like TurboTax and Quicken.

The $25,000 State Farm grant will help the Georgia 4-H Foundation improve access to higher education for Georgia students, too. It will allow the technology team to purchase a mobile lab and hold free Internet education classes statewide. The classes will teach students how to effectively use technology and about Internet and social networking safety and cyber bullying.

“Georgia is a high-need area with 91 of our 159 counties declared in persistent poverty,” said Cheryl Varnadoe, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H specialist who leads the technology team. “We feel that this grant opportunity will allow many youth and families a new start to reaching their dreams for the future.”

Students who own a computer and learn basic computer technology have the tools to reach higher education, she said.

“Over 60 percent of today’s jobs require knowledge of technology operations,” she said. “Working with underserved youth … will help close the achievement gap for many youth.”

The Georgia 4-H Foundation was one of 73 applicants from across the United States and Canada chosen to receive a State Farm Youth Advisory Board Grant. More than 500 organizations applied.

The youth advisory board is made up of 30 students who award and oversee the grants to organizations. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000 and are evaluated by how well they utilize service-learning to address driver safety, environmental responsibility, financial literacy, access to higher education and disaster preparedness.

Georgia 4-H delivers programs that provide educational and life skills opportunities to more than 200,000 students each year. For more information, visit

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.