Statewide program helps budding computer techs, families in need

Posted: January 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

Jay Jeffries (left), Clarke County High School technical education teacher, looks on as computer systems technology students John Burzio, 16, and Thomas Lang, 15, troubleshoot computers that the class was refurbishing Thursday.
Clarke County High School computer system technology student Joe Lynn, 18, uses an air compressor to blow dust out of the inside of a computer on Thursday. Students are refurbishing about 30 donated computers that will be given to area families. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Clarke County High School computer system technology students Troy Van Meter (left), 17, and Michael Pierce, 17, update computer drivers on a PC they were refurbishing in class on Thursday. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

BERRYVILLE — Clarke County High School senior Rowyn Graham studied the innards of a Dell computer Thursday as she determined where to place the hard drive.

How effectively she assembles the computer will matter not only in terms of her grade, but also to the lucky student who will eventually receive it as a donation.

Clarke, along with the Frederick County and Winchester school divisions, recently began participating in a statewide program called Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment (STAR), in which companies donate used computers to classes that repair them for families in need.

In the process, students become proficient in IT repair and can be certified as PC technicians.

“This is basically my future career,” said Graham, who hopes to pursue computer science. “It more or less comes to me. If I touch it, I feel it.”

The VA STAR program is administered through Prince William County Public Schools. The program is a collaborative effort involving Virginia’s Secretaries of Education and Technology as well as the state’s Departments of Education and General Services.

The Clarke County Education Foundation received the grant from VA STAR. All donations are processed through the foundation.

In Clarke, students have repaired computers in their Computer Systems Technology classes for years, but this is the first time the finished results won’t be disassembled and put back together by future classes.

“Before, they did it to get a good grade,” said Jay Jeffries, technology education teacher. “Now, they do it and someone’s going to get good use out of it.”

A Chantilly real estate services firm and the Federal Emergency Management Agency donated the computers to Clarke.

As part of their refurbishment, students add new hard drives, increase the memory and clean the insides.

“It appeals to me more than a lot of things here,” said senior Michael Pierce. “I’m building things.”

For freshman Jarrett Wagner, it’s all about figuring out how things work.

“I like doing software and programming and things like that,” he said.

Senior Marylee Gowdy called the refurbishment activity useful and practical.

“We’re not told on a PowerPoint how to do it,” she said. “We’re actually figuring it out when we’re doing it.”

About 30 computers will be donated in early February to Clarke County families in need in the school system. The division is currently receiving surveys to determine which families qualify for a computer.

Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School and Dowell J. Howard in Frederick County and Quarles Elementary School in Winchester are also participating in the program.

The school divisions will receive between $4,000 and $5,000 each year to administer the program.

People can donate their computers, but they must be fairly new. For qualifications and more information, see vastar.schoolfusion.us.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com