Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Just in Time for Christmas, a New Computer Lab for Waverly School

Chris Thompson, an AmeriCorps*VISTA member placed at Waverly Elementary/Middle School by GHCC, has been working hard this Fall to make sure Waverly Elementary students have access to computers to support their learning.

But Chris won’t take all the credit: he made all the connections, got the ball rolling, and provided coordination and support, but it was Waverly’s amazing community partners that came through and provided a whole new computer lab for the school.

Here’s what Chris had to say about this collaborative effort:

Tell us a little bit about the new computer lab at Waverly. What was there before, and what will this lab allow students to accomplish?
The new Waverly Elementary School computer lab features 25 refurbished computers, a smart board for LCD projection, and a wonderful new mural painted by third grader Kyle Smith. The previous lab only contained a handful of “dinosaur” computers that were so old they were unusable. While these computers aren’t brand new, they are high-quality and only two years old.
The addition of a functioning computer lab will allow students to reinforce math and reading skills through interactive online learning tools, learn computer and technology skills, and have fun while they’re at it. Classes that have already utilized the lab have been thrilled, and the teachers are grateful for another fun resource for instructing their students.
Who donated time and resources to make this happen? How did you coordinate efforts between them?
I initially reached out to any organizations doing computer donations to address the need for technology at the school. Bootup Baltimore, a student-run technology assistance organization operated through the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern, offered to donate 25 computers and the necessary keyboards, mice, and cables. They acquired the computers through the Johns Hopkins University’s IT Recycling Program.
I worked with Bootup Baltimore until we hit the obstacle of finding funding to buy hard drives. Because Waverly Elementary and the Cathedral of the Incarnation have a strong and long-standing partnership, it was natural for me to reach out to them and ask if they could help. When they said yes, Bootup Baltimore purchased and installed the hard drives, then delivered the machines to the school.
Bootup Baltimore did all the initial computer refurbishment and setup, but the school’s IT specialist took charge of maintenance and support for the computers after they entered the building.
A project like this can get complicated—what was the moment that made it all worth it for you?

The unveiling event that Waverly held for the computer lab on Wednesday, December 15 was when I finally felt really excited about the implications of the project for Waverly students. We had a third grade class in there playing math computer games and everyone was able to see computers being used.
We also took the opportunity to thank all our partners individually and recognized the third grade student, Kyle Smith, who did the wonderful mural on the wall to beautify the room. The event was a thrill for everyone and made me grateful for the work they, and I, had done together.

You’re a VISTA—what’s your role at the school and in the community? How did this help you accomplish your VISTA project goals for the year?
My primary role at the school and in the Waverly community is to mobilize resources for the benefit of neighborhood families and students. I also assist with parent engagement initiatives put forth by the school.
This project was a great example of partnerships with community organizations that will provide a resource to fill a long-term need at the school. My role is to inspire people to do work like this and help coordinate their efforts. This project never could have happened without the spark provided by a VISTA, which then transformed into a prolonged process of coordination and support for partnering organizations as they worked to make the lab happen.
My primary goal this year is to form and strengthen partnerships between the Waverly school and the surrounding community, and this project enabled me do both!