Students refurbish computers for West End Ministries

Sep. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

Ask Chris Gillespie about the state of the computer lab at West End Ministries, and he just chuckles.
“You’d probably do better with a pencil and paper,” says Gillespie, the ministry’s executive director.
“I’ve been here 6½ years, and those computers were here when I came — that’s how old they are — and they’re very persnickety. You never know what you’re gonna get, which is a shame because we’ve got people from the community coming in here trying to do job searches or use the computers for educational purposes, and they’re disappointed when the computers let them down.”
That’s about to change, though, thanks to an innovative service learning project undertaken by an information technology class at the Academy at Central.
Students in Justin Crompton’s Network Administration 2 class have just finished refurbishing eight used computers — donated by Slane Corp., a local business — and will be delivering them to the ministry Monday morning.
“I was floored — it’s just unbelievable,” Gillespie says. “This is going to give options to people who had none.”
Crompton came up with the idea over the summer, when he and other school staff members visited West End Ministries to explore options for partnering with the ministry on a variety of service learning projects.
“They asked me to look at the computer lab, and as soon as I walked in there and looked at it, I had the idea of refurbishing computers and giving them to West End Ministries,” he says.
Under Crompton’s guidance, the 13 students in the class got the donated computers in working condition and installed the necessary software to make them ready for use at the ministry.
“They did all the work from what they’ve learned in this class,” Crompton explains. “When the computers came in, they were totally unusable, so the kids had to refurbish them and totally reformat them. They installed all the software on them and upgraded the RAM (data storage capacity) in them.”
The students also learned how to program the computers so that undesirable websites would not be available to users.
“West End wanted some protection in place so that members of the public couldn’t access certain types of websites and applications,” Crompton says. “So the students learned how to put policies in place so that if anyone tries to go to one of those sites, the computer will block it and won’t let them go there.”
Students say the project provided them with some practical, hands-on experience.
“It was a good learning experience for us,” says Taylor Cobb, a 15-year-old sophomore who hopes to pursue a career of some sort in the information technology field. “I also liked it because we’re doing something to help the community.”
In addition to refurbishing the computers, the students will be on call if the computers have any technical issues that need to be resolved, according to Crompton.
Gillespie, the ministry’s executive director, says the project will be a huge blessing for the ministry and the people it serves.
“Now people will have a place to go and do job searches and work on school assignments and take care of other concerns, without having to worry about whether the computers will work,” he says.
“They have to walk to the public library if they want that now, so this will be great for residents of the West End. It will also give us the opportunity to teach classes for people who have no computer skills at all, so we’re really going to benefit from this.”
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579