A few weeks ago, I noticed there wasn’t a page or dedicated location on our website with STEM and Computer Science (CS) program information. I convinced my supervisor that we should have one, and he said he’ll speak with the appropriate people to make the change. He assured me it will probably get passed and I can look back on the site after my service is over and show others that I made everlasting change. However, that’s not what excites me and not what I’d consider a proud moment.
One of my proudest moments is doubling the number of computers at a club. It was easy too, for all it took was being a good listener and action-oriented.
The story starts at the end of a staff training at a new Boys & Girls Club (BGC). This BGC had only 5* computers, and they were joining after we already gave away most, if not all, of our loaner computers to other clubs. I suggested that they run the CS First program more than once a week with 2 different groups of kids to make the most of those computers. It was a good idea, but not the most ideal.
In the parking lot, I ran into someone (let’s call him/her Ashley) from the IT team who was onsite to fix a computer. We chatted, and I asked if there was any way to get more computers for this site. I was not expecting much because: the IT team is small with many BGCs to service, we always seem to be low on staff and resources as a non-profit, and they already gave some laptops to my program. However, it never hurts to ask.
I learned that some one from this BGC requested that the IT team remove 8-10 broken computers from the site a few months ago without specifying if they wanted the computers fixed and brought back or replaced. Ashley was really frustrated by this because they’re just sitting in her office. She strongly felt that she could probably save half of them (and if not, she could replace them), but it’s against policy for her to dedicate time to it without a formal request.
Long story short, I asked Ashley what she needed in the request for me to submit it myself. However, I thought it would make more sense coming from someone at that club, so I marched into the club director’s office (whose only connection with me prior to this was being CC’d in the same email once), and advised him accordingly.** It was a quick little meeting and he ended up submitting several IT requests as a result, including one to allow a staff I just trained to be able to submit IT requests herself. This is crucial to my goal of creating sustainability because having a non-VISTA staff close to the CS program submitting requests means neither the club director or myself are bottlenecks to the program’s success.
Because of the delay, I had to sit in traffic for more than an hour, but it was worth it to get the site more computers. Those computers would also be permanent and can be used for any program, unlike the loaner laptops we’d have to scavenge.
UPDATE: Ashley asked me if I was at the BGC site to let her know how many ethernet and power ports there were so she could know how many to bring the next day. I had no idea and was an hour’s drive away, but I knew someone at the club I could call who would be happy to let me know; Hayden was one of the staff I trained for the program. She was overjoyed to hear they were getting more computers and happily volunteered the information. With that info, Ashley said she could bring about 15 computers! We’re now tripling the number of computers within 5 business days!
*Sure, they didn’t have many computers to start with so doubling it might not sound like a lot to you, but each one makes a big difference to the 150+ high risk, low income kids who might not have computers at home that have to share those 5 everyday.
** Club director may or may not have been a ‘he’, I just assigned genders based on whimsy. I had to go back to the BGC because staff prefer face-to-face communication at most sites, and I didn’t know, at the time, who could submit IT requests at that site, so I wou. It turned out that only one with that power was the club director.