In 2010, PCs for People launched a pilot project designed to provide home computers to families with an elementary-aged child. The PCs for Kids project is program where we partner with schools and head start programs to provide an opportunity for every child in the school to have a home computer. We believe that providing a home computer, internet, and education is an effective way to create meaningful and lasting change in both the student and their family’s life. Since 2010, we have learned many valuable lessons distributing thousands of computers through dozens of Minnesota schools.
Recent studies show that households with incomes below $25,000 are half as likely to own a computer compared to households with incomes above $50,000. Adults in these families are less likely to learn the basic computer skills they need to find employment or increase their value to their current employer. Children are unable to complete their homework or take advantage of the online learning tools many of their classmates use regularly. In Minneapolis schools children with a home PC get sent home math software. Those without a computer get sent home flash cards. Our aim is to help improve academic achievement for low-income children by increasing access to educational tools at home and improving academic engagement at a time when it tends to decline.
Nancy Stachel, principal at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul, writes, “Technology is a powerful tool for those that have access; and therein lies the issue for schools like Maxfield Elementary. Yes, parents can take their children to the public libraries to access computers, but that does not adequately address the digital divide that adds to Minnesota's achievement gap. There are so many resources that our students and families could use at home if only they had a computer and Internet access.”
To be eligible for PCs for Kids a family must be below the 150% poverty level. Schools generally utilize free and reduced lunch to quickly determine who is eligible in their school. If a school has 75% or more of their students on free or reduced lunch we can deem the whole school eligible and a check is not necessary.
For these events we communicate with the individual school to determine what works best to connect with local families in need. Generally the school prepares a list of families eligible families and mails home a signup sheet. Many times demand exceeds supply of PCs so a lottery system is used. A finalized list of recipients is sent to PCs for People at least 3 days before the event.
Events are hosted at the school or in another location that would be easily accessible to students and their families. As families enter the event area their name will be checked to make sure they are on the recipient list. PCs for People will bring a truck load of computers and set up an area for training. Each family will receive basic computer training and an overview of their computer. Once the training is complete the family will be able to take a computer tower, screen, keyboard, mouse and internet access package (if purchased) home with them that day. A family can expect this process to take about 45 minutes. PCs for People can distribute 100 computers in about 1 1/2 hours. Events are generally scheduled from 4-5:30PM Monday-Friday.
Funding is generally arranged from a local sponsor prior to planning an event. The cost is $50 per computer system with a minimum order of 50 PCs or more depending on distance from a PCs for People office. Internet can be included at a cost of $50 per person which includes internet hardware and 3 months of service. Pricing is subject to change so please check prior to planning an event.
PCs for People will refurbish the computers required for this project at their corporate headquarters in St. Paul. A refurbished computer will have the data wiped, case cleaned, Windows 7 installed and PCs for People’s software bundle loaded. The software bundle includes productivity software, anti-virus, anti-malware and educational content. Computers will be 3-6 years old with a minimum of 1GB Ram.
Warranty, Repair and Support
PCs for People warranties equipment for 90 days (hardware) and will replace it if it's not functional. However, other issues due to user error (physical damage, virus, spyware, and other software related issues) are repaired for a small fee. After the 90 day warranty we offer a discounted repair program to ensure participants always have a working computer. As part of the program all necessary repairs will be completed for $25. Individuals may also get a second computer from PCs for People, but there is a two computer limit per address per year.
In 2013 PCs for People received a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to support digital inclusion through the PCs for Kids program. $170,000 was awarded to pay for the distribution of 2,400 computers to low-income families with school-aged children in 22 communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The funding is slated to support the project through 2014.
Currently, recipients of this project receive basic computer skills training on the day they receive a computer. It is expected that computer skills training will be provided to over 4,800 people as part of this project.
In the Media
KSTP's channel 5 news aired a story featuring one of our PCs for Kids events at Jackson Preparatory School. The story featured a clip of two PCs for People staff distributing nearly 150 computers to families at the school. The story aired October 22, 2014. You can watch a clip of the story by clicking the link. http://kstp.com/article/stories/S3598342.shtml?cat=12196
On November 14th 2014 a PCs for Kids event in Willmar was mentioned in an article by the West Central Tribune. Nearly 100 families were given computers at the event. You can read more by clicking the below link: http://www.wctrib.com/content/nearly-100-families-receive-free-computers-willmar-giveaway