Describe your nonprofit's mission.
C4K is a free out-of-school time nonprofit that provides a year-round creative and safe learning environment where young people from low income communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology. Our regular one-on-one and group mentoring opportunities spark new interests for college and career success. Youth engage in daily hands on science, technology, engineering, art, and math learning opportunities. Participants earn a free laptop for home use and repair support. C4K serves youth who live in Charlottesville and Albemarle, are in middle and high school, and qualify for the federal school lunch program. Last year C4K provided 14,347 hours of one-on-one and group mentoring to 230 promising low income youth. C4K’s design studio is open Monday –Thursday from 3pm-8pm and Fridays 3pm-7pm during the school year and 9:30am-7pm during the summer.
C4K has provided one-on-one volunteer mentoring, technology training, and technology access to low income youth since 2001. In 2015, C4K extended the benefits available to our youth members by joining The Clubhouse Network, an international network of afterschool programs based out of The Museum of Science in Boston. Now in addition to offering every C4K participant 9 months of one-on-one mentoring (at least 1 hour per week) and project-based technology training with a volunteer mentor, through The Clubhouse@C4K, youth have daily access to group mentoring, hands on-science, technology, engineering, arts, and math learning opportunities, in The Clubhouse@C4K.
What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
Computers4Kids (C4K) is a Charlottesville nonprofit that was founded to help close the gap that exists between Charlottesville and Albemarle area youth who can afford to have a home computer and those who cannot by using the growing supply of surplus computers that results when businesses, residents, and organizations upgrade their equipment. As computers have become more affordable, Computers4Kids has evolved into an organization that provides so much more than computer access.
C4K serves youth ages 11-18 who live in Charlottesville and Albemarle. 54% of youth in Charlottesville and 29% in Albemarle County qualify for the federal free or reduced price school lunch program. 100% of C4K participants are low income and qualify for the school lunch program. 92% are minorities, 24% were born outside the U.S (a number that fluctuates and has been above 50%) and come from 56 different countries. 51% of participants are girls and 49% are boys. A majority of our participants’ families struggle with unemployment, underemployment, or balancing multiple, low wage jobs. They face the challenges of English not being their first language, homelessness, poor access to healthcare, and food insecurity. Without intervention, nearly half of the children in these families will remain in poverty (Charlottesville Works Orange Dot report 2015). C4K participants do not have the same access to technology as their higher income peers, are at greater risk of low academic achievement, and are more likely to demonstrate risky behaviors like skipping school, drug use, and gang activity.
C4K works to break the cycle of generational poverty through proven methods for building self-sufficiency: year-round out-of-school time programming in a safe environment, mentoring, and employment skill-building opportunities. C4K helps our youth participants reach their potential. Mentored youth are more likely to make responsible decisions, stay engaged in school, and avoid risky behaviors like skipping school or drug use. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, more than 50% of jobs require some technology skills, and experts say that will increase to 77% in the next decade. When youth have the right tools, information, and opportunity, they can accomplish great things.
How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Since 2001, C4K has provided over 1,400 youth with one-on-one mentoring and technology skill-building opportunities that build a pathway to self-sufficiency. 97% of youth completing C4K program requirements have graduated from high school on time, versus the local 82% graduation rate for low income youth (2016 stat from Charlottesville High School), and 92% have gone on to college. C4K’s provides local low income youth with employable digital skills, and the social support and resources needed to break the cycle of poverty, go to college, pursue meaningful careers, contribute to our community and reach their potential.
How can community members help you achieve your mission?
Community members can help C4K achieve our mission by providing financial support, donating laptops for our youth members, and by becoming a volunteer mentor.
One-on-one mentoring: Mentors are paired with a young person based on common interests and commit to meeting with their individual mentee for one hour per week for about a year (a total of 36 hours). Mentor pairs work together on science, technology, engineering, art, and/math projects. Projects range from creating a blog, to designing a website, to programming a video game and so much more! Mentors help C4K youth express themselves through technology while building a positive connection.
As a C4K mentor, you can join a community of young people and adults who create, invent and explore together using the latest technology tools. Serve as a role model to youth while building your own skills and connecting with like-minded volunteers in our community. Make a positive impact on the life of a young person.
C4K provides mentors with training, support, and access to learning tools. Successful volunteers vary in age, background, interests, and skills. Mentors have a variety of interests and occupational backgrounds, such as art, music, engineering and education. Although it is beneficial to have a level of familiarity and comfort with computers, it is more important that mentors have a genuine interest in working with young people. The best mentors are caring adults with the passion to inspire youth. Visit www.computers4kids.net to learn more today!
Share with us a personal profile of a C4K youth member:
“This [Computers4Kids] made me want to do something with my life when I grow up. It helped me find the career I want. I finally found what I want to do,” - C4K member Tyrann.
Tyrann was describing his experience with writing, directing, acting, and producing his short film, “It’s a Hard Life.” Last year Tyrann came to C4K staff with an idea and a vision – he wanted to create his own film. With the support of C4K staff and volunteers, Tyrann worked on his script for a year, knowing that staff was committed to providing the resources needed to make his vision a reality.
In June 2016, 15 C4K members participated in a 5-day camp that made it happen. Professional filmmaker Mark Wilson (of LUCA Films) was present to co-lead the camp with C4K staff. Ty and the other participating C4K members had the opportunity to learn what it is like to be an actor, a sound technician, a camera person, a director, a producer, and a member of a collaborative team. An open casting call took place so that C4K members would have the opportunity to work with professional actors. On site filming took place at multiple locations around town, and members used C4K’s mobile filmmaking equipment. Tyrann said that he learned so many different skills during the process of bringing his vision to life, in addition to learning filmmaking skills, the experience taught him how to be more patient and how to respond to people differently when working together.
The collaborative experience of making “It’s a Hard Life” is just one demonstration of the benefits of joining The Clubhouse Network and broadened C4K’s technology focus to include science, technology, engineering, art and math (S.T.E.A.M.). Our members are developing capabilities across a range of 21st century skills, including problem solving, creative production, effective communication, collaboration and use of technical tools.
Learn more about C4K.
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