A federal government program, Computers for Learning, enabled Immaculate Conception School in East Aurora and St. Mark School in Buffalo to receive updated computer labs. Last month, Roxanne Perry, technology teacher at Immaculate Conception, and Brian Brennan, technology coordinator at St. Mark's, spoke about the effects that these donations have had on the schools.
"We were extremely blessed to be able to get these machines," Perry commented. "Brian was the one that hooked us up with the info needed to get started and he gave me a lot of things from his own personal lab as well, which he also got from Computers for Learning. We have a beautiful new computer lab now."
Brennan, who formerly taught in a public school, noticed when he began working at a diocesan school that it is often hard for them to come across resources they need. After he arranged for computers to be sent to St. Mark's, he collaborated with Perry to update Immaculate Conception's computer supplies, which were old and outdated.
"Private schools sometimes don't have the resources," Brennan said. "My kids went to St. Amelia's (in Tonawanda) all these years, and you can't just go out and spend on new equipment. I knew about donations, so I think I just searched for it and found Computers for Learning at computersforlearning.gov.
Computers for Learning is the result of Executive Order 12999, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, "Educational Technology: Ensuring Opportunity for All Children in the Next Century." This allows government agencies to donate unwanted computers and associated items to charities and eligible organizations. Once agencies deem supplies to be "excess" material, recipients apply and use the website to select which items they receive.
The computers that Immaculate Conception received for its lab came from Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Brennan spoke with one man there who said he had equipment he needed to donate, including 200 desktop units he needed to move. After Brennan got what he needed for St. Mark's, he contacted Perry.
"She had nothing going on in her school - a couple of old 10-year-old Apple computers, so the kids had no computer lab or anything really to speak of. I coordinated with Perry and we got her a full classroom set of desktops with monitors, keyboards and everything. Then, she used some of her school's money and we bought 20-something hard drives off of eBay for like $5 apiece," Brennan recalled.
Immaculate Conception also received help from EdTech of Western New York, another local not-for-profit organization, who had a technician come out to help hook up the wireless Internet. Between the government donation and EdTech, the out-of-pocket expenses for Perry to update her school's entire lab came to under $250.
"I've also gotten computers to St. Joseph University, St. Amelia's, Our Lady of Black Rock School in Buffalo and, I think, St. Christopher's. Some of the ones I literally brought to the school and helped them with," said Brennan. "A couple of them, I was the go-between. If you are in Catholic education, they just don't have the government money like some of the public schools do."
When asked about the impact Computers for Learning has had, Brennan said that 18 of 26 computers in his school's own lab were donated.
"I can tell you that it's allowed us to really bring our school into the 21st century, and the parents are thrilled. If the teachers were to assign something or have a project, these kids now can not only do it in class time, but we got donations of laptops, printers," Brennan said. "I set up eight laptops in our cafeteria so the kids in our afterschool program can have access to their review and their enrichment without having to make sure that they have it at home."