Rubino Academy Gives Students Refurbished Computers to Close the Digital Divide
In an era where information technology permeates almost every aspect of daily life, the need for students to have access to computers as educational tools is crucial. That’s why Camelot Education’s Rubino Academy in Mercer County, NJ, has been giving away free refurbished computers to students who don’t have one at home.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the role that technology plays in education is an evolving area of research that continues to grow in importance.
The report stated, “Gaps in Internet access remain between different groups of children. In particular, 5 to 17-year-old students living below the poverty threshold have lower rates of home Internet access.”
Antoinette Gomes, Rubino Academy’s executive director, said the school has given away computers for almost three years and sees the effort as an integral part of Camelot Education’s mission to level society’s playing field for all of its students. She said about 50 percent of Rubino students do not have a computer at home.
“Rubino Academy, like all of Camelot’s schools, receives updated computers for students to use in the classroom,” said Gomes. “The question for us was ‘what do we do with the old computers we no longer need,’ and the answer was an obvious one. Our IT consultant began refurbishing the used computers, and then we gave them away to students in need. We’re committed to meeting the needs of our kids, not just in the classroom but outside the school as well, and part of that commitment includes ensuring they are able to access technology from home. This was just an expeditious way to help them cross the digital divide. We try to give away a few each month.”
Students who are members of the school’s student government as a result of excellent attendance and academic performance are given priority to receive the refurbished computers. Rubino Academy Principal Henry Krzeczkowski said, so far for this year, the school has given away ten computers. Ultimately, it is the school’s goal to ensure each child has a computer at home.
An 18-year old Rubino student, Braijon, said having a computer at home is making all the difference for him academically. Braijon is taking dual-enrollment classes at Rubino Academy and needs a computer to complete online college coursework.
“[Having a computer at home] helps me complete my college class assignments. It really helps me get things done faster,” he said. “It’s like having a key to all of the world’s knowledge.”
In order to help students utilize the computers to their full potential, Principal Krzeczkowski said the school also gives students everything they need to use them; a keyboard, a monitor, and all the cables.
“We also help students and their families with paperwork so they can receive low-cost Internet service at home.” He continued, “We wish we could do more now, but we will give away more computers soon. Currently, we are working to refurbish roughly 30 computers. Our goal is to give our kids all of the tools they need to succeed, and we know a lot of our families can’t afford to buy a computer. Yes, the kids may have a smartphone, but a lot of the assignments can’t be done adequately using a smartphone, because we administer a college-level curriculum for some of our students. That means they have to go to a library to do the work. Having a computer at home makes life easier.”
Camelot’s Rubino Academy is an open enrollment school-of-choice that serves students who have fallen behind in their studies or are vulnerable to dropping out of school. Most students arrive with significantly fewer credits than they should have for their age. Rubino Academy provides academic and therapeutic supports to help students get back on track for graduation, earn their high school diploma and prioritizes post-secondary exposure and planning.
“Students come to Rubino Academy from nine different districts, so it’s a diverse group of kids,” Krzeczkowski said. He stated that while access to technology can provide valuable learning opportunities to students, it does not guarantee successful outcomes. Teachers, communities, and families all play a crucial role.
“Some students are under-credited and have fallen behind, others are truant. Many come from varied backgrounds where they lack a support structure,” he said. “Once they’re in our program, our job is to support them and get them on track, and comfortable with academics.”
Rubino Academy Student Jasmine McKinney, 16, wanted a computer so she would be able to complete her classroom assignments, but the technology means even more to her than that.
“This is something that helps me with homework and can help me find a job,” she said. “Having a computer means a better future for me by helping me learn more.”