OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Computers are essential for today's students whether they're learning at school or at home.
Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, 13.8% of children in Nebraska don't usually have a computer or other device for schoolwork, and 10.9% of kids don't usually have internet access at home for educational purposes.
This reality motivated Jim Clements, the founder and executive director of Made New Makerspace in Omaha. Four years ago, a friend and network engineer at Kiewit offered to donate a few laptops. Another friend connected Clements with Ken Pennington at Ken's PC Repair. Together, they've grown the program, Laptops for Learners, each year. Soon, they'll eclipse 750 computers donated to local kids.
"What we do is we give them an opportunity where now they can get this technology into their homes and their kids can do their homework on them," Clements explained. "They can look for jobs. They can find resources in the community. So much of our world has shifted online. It's 2023. We need to get the technology into the hands of these kids."
Once the computers are donated — whether in batches from companies, or single laptops people no longer need or use — they're taken to Pennington's shop in Millard.
"When they come into us, most of the time, the hard drives are already wiped. If it's a computer that's donated from the community, we'll wipe the hard drive or we will just replace it with a newer hard drive," Pennington said. "And then we reinstall the operating system and install some software for Office applications and such that Jim wanted to have on the computers."
Whether he's refurbishing laptops upfront or repairing laptops through the program down the road, Pennington doesn't charge a dime. Similarly, Clements doesn't get paid for his work on the program, either.
They're unified by the impact they know they're making.
"We're trying to do our part to make the world a better place. That's really what it boils down to," Clements shared.
"We can't fix the entire city. We can't fix the entire digital ecosystem, but we can go in and we can help as many kids as we have the opportunity to and we can help as many as we get these laptops for."
Applications for Laptops for Learners open July 17, 2023. Parents and guardians can apply online, and if internet access is unavailable, visit Digital Express on MCC's Fort Omaha Campus.