Growing up with unlimited computer access, Jack Montgomery and Tyler Stout were shocked to realize some classmates at Los Altos High didn’t have a computer at home. For more than a year, the two friends have collected old computers, fixed them up and given them to students in need, reports the Mountain View Voice. Their nonprofit, Silicon for Society, has donated 30 computers, which come with tutoring on how to use them.
Montgomery, the computer whiz of the pair, set up shop in his bedroom, where he pulls the computers apart, cleans their components, installs operating systems and software, and recycles the parts that are too old or broken.
Stout, who has had an interest in philanthropy from a young age, began writing grants and did the legwork to get the project under the umbrella of the Los Altos Community Foundation, a local charitable organization.
Both boys, now seniors, spend about six hours a week each teaching computer recipients “the basics of Internet search, word processing, slide shows and spreadsheets.” Using Linux and its free applications keeps the costs low.
Often the computer is used by the whole family, Montgomery says.
“That’s pretty cool, actually, to see everybody in the family gathering around looking at this thing,” he said. “You fire it up and then, ‘Oh! Wow!'”
They hope Stout’s younger brother will keep the project going after they graduate, though they’ll continue to fix up computers if they go to college in the area. (I think this means Stanford.)
Los Altos High, my local high school, predominantly enrolls white and Asian-American students from affluent families, kids whose parents are likely to work at Silicon Valley companies. But a quarter of students come from low-income and working-class Hispanic families in neighboring Mountain View; most are the children of poorly educated Mexican immigrants. When my niece went there, she didn’t get to know Mexican-American students until she took a cooking class geared to students interested in restaurant work.