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Recycled computers fixed for Fairbanks students studying from home

Finished laptops that are ready to go to students in need. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)
Finished laptops that are ready to go to students in need. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)(KTVF)
Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 12:05 PM AKDT
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As classrooms move online, students who do not have computers struggle to keep up with their classwork. A local nonprofit Green Star of Interior Alaska is recycling computers and laptops to provide for students in need.

"When the COVID-19 crisis hit, we quickly heard from the school district that all of their kids were going to have to be learning from home and many kids did not have a computer at home outside of their parent’s cell phone,” said Tait Chandler, executive director of Green Star of Interior Alaska.

Chandler says for the past six months they had been working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s foster care program to donate laptops to children in the foster care system who do not have access to computers at home to do homework.

Chandler says the school district was working to distribute chrome books to students they can but they do not have enough chrome books for every student. Chandler says to fill that gap; Green Star started working to fix laptops to donate to children who need a laptop to continue their schoolwork.

"From our understanding its essential right now in order for them to complete schooling, all of their stuff is online, all of their interactions with teachers is through Zoom or another online platform that they need a computer to access, so for students in Fairbanks to continue their education through the school year they need a computer,” said Chandler.

In order to fix up the computers, a few volunteers come in to the warehouse, select computers they think they can fix and bring them home to work on them.

One volunteer, Will Flanders, has been working with Green Star of Interior Alaska for three to four years. "I enjoy tinkering with things and making something old work again," said Flanders.

“It’s really the ultimate form of recycling, we’re taking stuff that people have thrown away, adding RAM, testing it, installing a new OS to it, and it runs like a new machine, give or take,” said Flanders.

Another volunteer is Waylon Priday, a sixth grade student at Chinook Montessori Charter School, who just loves repairing computers.

"I don't know it's just sort of my thing, I like to work on computers and take them apart,” said Priday.

Priday is also experiencing doing classwork from home like this for the first time.

“It’s been working fine because I do have computers but it's a little wonky because it's sort of new," said Priday.

Another sixth grade student Mason Wenger who goes to Boreal Sun Charter School recently received a repaired laptop from Green Star.

"It has meant that I can do my school work now and perhaps pass the sixth grade, so I like that," said Wenger.

He is happy he does not have to share a computer with his brother anymore.

"We were constantly fighting over it, because I wanted to get my school work done, he wanted to get his school work done, and we just couldn't figure out a good system until we got this computer," said Wenger.

Chandler says it feels good to help fill the gap of computers for those in need.

"I think a lot of people right now are looking for things to do to be productive when they're asked to stay home, and yeah it feels really good to be contributing like a lot of businesses and non-profits are contributing to help people get through this really troubling time," Chandler.

Once they get computers to students in need, Chandler said they are also working to get computers to the families who need it, they are working to open the program up to people in Fairbanks who need a computer to do essential work.

They are accepting laptop donations at their warehouse at 1101 Well Street. Green star emphasizes that in order to protect privacy, their volunteers wipe the hard drives before they donate computers back to the community.

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