December 1, 2004
260 SW Birdshill Road
Portland, Oregon 97219
Attn: Patty Messinger, Administrator.
The Computers for Kids program is designed to help at-risk youth gain access to computers and technology education while providing them with service, leadership and social opportunities that contribute to self confidence and future education and career aspirations.
Free Geek partners with Portland area youth service organizations such as the Native American Youth Association (NAYA) and the YWCA to select youth to participate in recycling and computer building classes. After completing participation in the project participants receive their own computers, complete with a full suite of Open Source software and a certificate of accomplishment.
A more limited yet successful pilot project was conducted last year in concert with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland. With that experience and growing interest from other potential partnering programs Free Geek is now running Computers for Kids as a full-scale project with a full time coordinator on staff, having achieved enough of our fundraising goal to get started.
Toward that end we request from the Campbell Foundation a grant of $5,000 to bring our fundraising effort to 50% of the targeted amount of $20,000. Funds go towards transportation, materials and staffing for the first year. Continuing funding after the first year will derive from a variety of sources based on the demonstrated value of program in achieving positive outcomes for 150 Portland Metropolitan areas at-risk youth ages 10-18.
Community Technology Center
Free Geek will outreach to and select partnership programs that provide mentored at-risk youth services in the Portland Metropolitan area. Partnering programs will select co-ed participants age 10-18, provide transportation to Free Geek and provide supervisory staff. Free Geek will provide classroom space, materials and instructional staff. In addition the project requires a coordinating staff member responsible for partnership relations, scheduling and logistics, and community outreach. There are two Computers for Kids programs based on age group. Current partners are NAYA (Native American Youth Association), Portland YWCA and the Boys and Girls Club (Portland Metro).
Computers for Kids Adoption Program
The Adoption Program enables kids age 10-14 to exchange work in our recycling operation for a starter computer system of their own. Over a period of 8 weeks, working 2-4 hours per week kids work in three basic areas: receiving, recycling and testing. In receiving they learn to identify hardware and become familiar with the use of the mouse, keyboard and monitor. In recycling, participants learn how computer components fit together and come apart. Testing teaches them how various computer systems work and how to run diagnostic software.
After completing the program, participants "adopt" their computers and receive an introductory class on how to set up and use them. In the case of the Computers for Kids participants, additional family members will be invited to the orientation class to better integrate the new technology into the family's household.
Computers for Kids Build Program
The Build program for youth ages 14-18 teaches participants how to build their own computer systems from donated and recycled parts. The youth will spend 2-4 hours per week over the course of 8 weeks assembling standardized desktop computers and loading them with Open Source operating systems and application software. The final weeks will provide instruction on how to operate their new systems.
In addition to their own computers participants receive a Certificate of Technical Achievement. Family involvement in recognizing their achievement will be encouraged.
NEED FOR PROJECT
We noticed a strong interest from young people in the Adoption and Build programs, but they were often unable to assert themselves in groups dominated by adult participants. In addition, the kids were already highly motivated and relatively computer-savvy. We determined that by offering youth-specific access to our core competencies and by specifically targeting “at-risk” youth, Free Geek could better fulfill its educational mission while refocusing on bridging the Digital Divide.
The Oregon Progress Board Report (July 2003) summarizes sustainability and livability benchmarks for the State of Oregon. It provides a broad view of where Oregon stands as a state with education, employment, community development, crime, youth development, municipal infrastructure and other areas. According to the Progress Report to the Oregon Progress Board (July 2002) Oregon dropped 34.03 percent towards sustainability indicators for income disparity. At risk youth participants will acquire valuable market skills with computer technology and computer applications. These skills provide an opportunity to move beyond the existing income disparity that is often a reality in their families and within their communities.
The declining funding support for K-12 public education and support programs in Oregon and Multnomah County advocates a need for a project like Computers for Kids. The following indicators describe this need. Oregon’s reliance in the 1990’s to present on state income tax dollars and decreasing property tax dollars for school funding has further eroded education and support programs for youth. Oregon continues a trend of decreased spending when compared to the national average in 2002-2003 (National Education Association, February 2, 2004). Multnomah School District maintained a 6.5 percent drop out rate in comparison to the national average at 4.4 percent, a significant disparity (Oregon Dept of Education 2002-2003 Dropout Report; Northwest Area Foundation, 2000). Free Geek intends to enhance education and learning while encouraging commitment to compulsory public education, vocational and higher education. Computer for Kids is a project that will provide this opportunity.
Free Geek and the Computers for Kids project and are helping to refurbish and reuse technology and hardware that would normally contribute to waste production. One of the State of Oregon’s benchmark goals for sustainability is to decrease land filled or incinerated municipal solid waste. Multnomah County is in the top five in production of waste at 1570.9 lbs per capita per year (Progress Report to the Oregon Progress Board, July 16, 2002).
The Computers for Kids project incorporates volunteerism and commitment to community through youth participation in building computers for others in need. Volunteerism is another Oregon benchmark that dropped 5.4 percent between 1999-2000; more current data was not available (Progress Report to the Oregon Progress Board, July 16, 2002). The project is helping to promote meeting benchmark standards for the Portland Metro area.
Free Geek Mission Statement:
Free Geek recycles used technology to provide computers, education, job skills training and access to the Internet to those in need, in exchange for community service.
Free Geek was founded in February 2000 to recycle computer technology and provide low and no-cost computing to individuals and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world. In the four years since its formation, Free Geek has recycled over 500 tons of electronic scrap and refurbished over 3,500 computer systems that are now in use by individuals and organizations in the community.
Free Geek does most of this work with volunteers (at any given time, about 300 are active). The volunteers disassemble the donated equipment and test the components, which are either recycled as electronic scrap or recycled into refurbished systems. These refurbished computers are then loaded with Open Source Software such as GNU/Linux, Open Office, and other Free Software.
In just four years, Free Geek has tripled in physical size, while growing it's budget ten-fold. Free Geek has gone from an experiment to a viable organization with a proven track record. Free Geek was recognized as a Founder of a New Northwest by Sustainable Northwest in May of 2003. We are regularly sought out by elected officials, government agencies and recycling advocates asking our advice and guidance on how to deal with the growing problems of electronic waste and bridging the digital divide. Free Geek participates as a non-profit stakeholder on the Oregon State Legislature Electronic Product Stewardship Advisory Committee.
In the past year, several nascent organizations around the country have been inquiring about how they can build on the work we have started. To that end, Free Geek is encouraging and supporting a sister project in the mid-west. This group, dubbed Free Geek-Michiana1, has begun operations in South Bend, Indiana using software and documentation that we have developed. In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Free Geek Penn2, is just under way. Other groups are starting to use our tools in Seattle, Washington, and Toronto, Canada. We receive several inquires every month from around the world, wondering how this work can be replicated. Free Geek does everything we can do to help by making all of our software, documentation and procedures available for free.
FREE GEEK PROGRAMS
Free Geek's central location is a convenient place for individuals, organizations and small businesses to recycle computer equipment. By accepting all computer equipment, in any condition, we make the choice of where to go to dispose of computers a simple one. Computer donations are the exclusive source of computer hardware for both Free Geek's infrastructure and the equipment provided back to the community. As part of the recycling process, non-repairable and obsolete equipment is broken down into its base materials such as steel, aluminum, and copper. These commodities are then sold on the open market through our recycling partners. Sale of recycled materials provides a significant income stream to support operations.
Free Geek's flagship program, the Adoption program, enables individuals to exchange work in our recycling operation for a starter computer system of their very own. During their time at Free Geek, volunteers are exposed to computers on several different levels. volunteers work in three basic areas, receiving, recycling and testing. In receiving they learn to identify hardware and become familiar with the use of the mouse and keyboard. In recycling, volunteers learn about how the various pieces fit together and come apart. Testing teaches the volunteers how to insert and remove various components from the computer and how to run diagnostic software. After completing 24 hours of work, volunteers receive their computer and a introductory class on how to set it up and use it.
One of the more technically demanding programs, the Build program creates all the computers needed for our other programs. Volunteers are taught how to build computers working exclusively with used parts. The tested hardware is assembled into standardized desktop computers that are then loaded with an operating system and applications software. Each system passes a quality control test before it released to an adopter. Volunteers agree to complete six computer systems in exchange for the training in how to do it. After completing six systems, volunteers are welcome to keep the sixth computer for themselves. The remaining five computers are distributed into the community through our Adoption and Computers for Kids and Hardware Grants programs.
The education program began with the notion that "If we give someone their first computer, we need to teach them how to use it." The introductory classes are the core of a curriculum that has been expanded to include computer building, Linux command line basics and advanced computer programing languages such as Perl and Python. Volunteer teachers work together to organize classes, as well as documenting all of Free Geek's procedures to help train volunteers and volunteers working in any area. Education is ongoing for volunteers and volunteers from the moment they enter Free Geek, to long after they receive their computers and have it set up in their homes. We believe that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach. The education program focuses that energy to provide the latest in computer skills development for an extremely low cost. Volunteering time, taking classes and the hands on experience with computers are also excellent resume builders for computer professionals looking to increase their chances for employment.
Since opening our doors in September of 2000 we have accepted the donation of over 200,000 computers and computer components. In the process we have recycled over 500 tons of electronic scrap, recovering the metals and plastics. Volunteers have refurbished over 4,000 computer systems, that are back in use in the community. We have also tested and redistributed an additional 28,000 components and peripheral devices. Over 3,500 volunteers have participated, donating over 111,000 hours of community service.
The most obvious and tangible benefits of the project are the computers and the training to use them. Differences in access to computer equipment and education is the primary definition of the Digital Divide that separates the realms of possibility available to privileged and underprivileged segments of our society.
The following outcome objectives include: Each 8-week cycle, 30 at-risk Portland youth will emerge with the tools necessary to cross the divide. A total of 150 youth will participate in either the Adoption or Build projects during the 12-month project period.
150 computer systems will be distributed to participants, for their own use.
Improved assessment scores for positive attitudes toward technology, education, careers, community service and self-esteem.
Pre/post assessment measures will be distributed and completed by each youth participant to assess for a positive change in attitudes within 0the assessment areas.
Free Geek will follow up with partnering programs to track the participants' progress according to the metrics used by those organizations. Feedback received from the pre/post assessment will be incorporated into the development and implementation of future class-cycles.
In addition to Free Geek's investment in facilities, equipment and staffing, we also want to encourage new partners to participate by helping to pay for their transportation and extra staffing costs. For the first year of the program we estimate the total cost of the program at $35,000. Free is seeking to raise $20,000 through foundations and provide the remaining $15,000 from our general fund. Free Geek has already been awarded $5,000 from the Juan Young Trust towards this goal. Free Geek is requesting $5,000 from the Campbell Foundation to take another large step towards meeting our budget needs. Free Geek is also in the process of requesting an additional $5,000 each from the Templeton Foundation and the Anderson Childrens Foundation. These items are detailed in the attached financial statements.
FUTURE FUNDING PLANS
Once the value of the project is firmly established we anticipate partnering programs will be willing to shift their budgets to offset their own staffing and transportation costs. Another service organization has expressed interest in providing ongoing transportation funding. This is being negotiated. Free Geek will continue to pursue support from other private foundations within the coming year to assist with material costs. The implementation of pre/post assessment will assist in Free Geek’s potential to qualify for state and local education and social services funding.
Free Geek considers itself an educational organization first and foremost. It's signature recycling and build process is a new way of providing solutions to long standing environmental and socioeconomic problems. Cooperation and community take precedence over competition.
The benefits of the Computers for Kids project extend beyond the nuts and bolts of computers and how to use them. Participating youth will learn and experience how economic opportunity and environmental sustainability can co-exist. They will also acquire the opportunity to create a new vision for their own future and their own community.
Free Geek sees the Computers for Kids project as its brightest opportunity to promote a new vision of the future. Those once most in need are now best able to change their own future. We invite the Campbell Foundation trustees and board to participate in supporting Free Geek’s passion and dedication to the Computer for Kids project.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dennis Bridges, Director
[contact info deleted]
Dennis has almost 20 years of experience in the printing industry including 7 years as an environmental engineer. He is also certified as a Six Sigma Quality and Process Improvement Consultant. Dennis is currently the publisher and editor of Computer Bits magazine.
Michele Brooks, Director
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Michele has over 15 years of organizational development experience. She holds a Masters of Science degree in organizational development from Pepperdine University. She has been facilitating meetings and consulting with non-profit organizations since 1996. She is particularly devoted to issues of sustainability, community building and environmentalism.
Brent Campbell, President
[contact info deleted]
Brent is currently the systems administrator for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He has worked in both technical and managerial positions at technology companies such as Abacus Computers and Symantec. Educated at Oregon State University, Brent has also worked in Kenya with the Peace Corps.
Kimberly McClain, Director
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Kimberly is a dedicated community activist, Chairperson of the Montavilla Neighborhood Association in SE Portland and a board member of SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition. Kimberly was a recipient of a 2003 Spirit of Portland Award.
Mark Niemann-Ross, Secretary
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Mark is the Third-Party Developer Evangelist for Adobe Systems. He has worked for all of the major graphic arts software companies, including Quark, and Extensis. He teaches a beginning programming class at the Metropolitan Learning Center.