On Tuesday night, 24 lucky Manassas Park families received free computers from the Bridging the Gap Program; a student organization that takes in older computers, refurbishes them and gives them to families without a computer.
“I have 14 students who help do all the repair and cleaning of the donated computers. Then, we install useful Freeware and put the computers back into the community,” said Chris Konig, the IT specialist at Manassas Park High School in charge of the club that works with the computers. “It helps my students learn new skills and interact with families outside of the school.”
Families enjoyed pizza and soda pop while learning the intricacies of the new computers. Each family sat at a station with a student and learned the basics of system operation.
“Behind the scenes is the easy part for these students. Repairing computers and installing programs is an every day thing for them, “ said Chuck Drake of the Virginia Stars Program, which gives grants and finds companies to donate computers for the program. “The bottom line is that it gets the high school kids involved in the community and forces them into less comfortable situations, like speaking one-on one with the families. We hope that it even gives them ideas for the future. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
During the first year of the Bridging the Gap Program, officials hoped to bring computers to 10 different sites in Prince William County and they succeeded. Next year, 15 sites will be included in the program.
“Private industry donates lots of computers for the program. Tonight, we are giving away Dell 340s, which should last for at least three more years,” said Drake. “Right now, we have over 1,000 computers out in different communities.”
In the future, Konig and his club hope to hold computer nights twice a year every year.
“We want to make a difference in the community. It helps everyone, students, families and the people involved in the program,” Konig said.